Compared to the ridiculous actions by President Trump that have led the United States into a state of national and global humiliation in just his first few weeks in office, something as seemingly trivial as Kellyanna Conway using the media to promote the brand of Ivanka Trump is a relatively insignificant event. Families of immigrants trying to legally enter the United States have been torn apart by the executive order that bans travel to the United States for Muslims from seven middle eastern nations, a drone raid in Yemen was responsible for killing small children, Trump has essentially refused to legalize any conflicts of interests he may have, and he idly threatened one of America’s closest neighbors with military invasion.
Also worth mentioning are his strange and moronic disagreement with the Australian prime minister, his placement of white supremacists in the highest positions in government, and his constant spewing of lies about everything that has already been listed. However, the actions taken by Kellyanne Conway are interesting for several reasons. First, such behavior is quite rare, even for those under Trump, and second, she literally broke the law on national television. The seriousness of the breach isn’t really in question: most people agree it is a drop in the bucket. However, that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be held accountable for the obvious and negligent behavior that was broadcast to millions of Americans.
Some readers are probably familiar with the background for this story, but for those who don’t, here’s a quick summary. Trump and his administration are in a days-long dispute with Nordstrom, which is a department store chain that recently made the decision to stop carrying a clothing line created and sold by Ivanka Trump. In response to that decision, the President of the United States went to Twitter to attack the retail giant. First, he tweeted the criticism from his personal account, then he used his official presidential account to retweet the original message.
Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spcier, curiously defended the statements from President Trump, claiming that the decision to stop stocking the products of the president’s daughter was an attack on both the president’s policies and Ivanka Trump’s name. When Kellyanne Conway made an appearance on Fox and Friends the next day, she actually told viewers that they should go buy products from Ivanka’s line of clothing, and that she was happy to give the brand a free commercial on a national news program.
According to a federal ethics law, no administrative employee shall use their public office for private gain or to endorse products, yet that is exactly what Conway did, and she did so with unabashed arrogance because she assumed no one would ever call her out on the illegality of the statements. Either that or she simply didn’t know her comments were illegal, both of which are troubling explanations.
There are few past cases when government employee misconduct was so cut and dry, which is part of the reason public employees are rarely punished for such action. Hard evidence must be presented, paper trails must be found, and there is always the chance that parties on both sides might agree that nothing illegal occurred when in fact it did. However, this isn’t one of those times. There is not only hard evidence in the form of the video footage of the product promotion, but there is no way to argue that Conway wasn’t endorsing those products.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, has come under fire recently for his failure to investigate many strange situations going on in the Trump administration, but this act by Conway was so egregious that even Chaffetz agreed something must be done. He said he would send a letter to the Office of Government Ethics and the White House itself requesting a formal investigation into the situation.