In the age of Trump, context is meaningless. So it’s not surprising that Democrats and their media allies would go ballistic after Kellyanne Conway “promoted” Ivanka Trump’s clothing line on Fox News this morning.
If all she was doing was trying to enrich herself or Ivanka by shilling for the first daughter, it would, indeed, be an egregious breach of ethics.
But it was obvious, at least the first time that she mentioned Ivanka’s line, that Conway was telling people to go out and buy Ivanka’s products as a way to push back against Trump critics in the retail business who have dropped Ivanka’s line from their inventory.
The fact that she said it half-jokingly doesn’t matter to the Democrats, who have no sense of humor anyway.
The second time she mentioned purchasing Ivanka’s clothing line was a little dicier. Here’s the clip:
How can anyone take Conway’s “promotion” of Ivanka’s products in that first segment seriously? Her “promotion” was a throwaway line given as the interviewer was about to ask another question.
The second instance of Conway shilling for Ivanka was more problematic in that, while she obviously wasn’t doing it for personal gain, Conway’s appeal to purchase a product while sitting in the White House was inappropriate.
Needless to say, never underestimate the ability or desire of Democrats to turn a mole hill into a mountain.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily briefing: “Kellyanne has been counseled. … She’s been counseled on that subject.”
The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland urged Chairman Jason Chaffetz to refer Conway to the government ethics watchdog office for potentially breaking rules barring government employees from endorsing private businesses.
Cummings pointed to the comments, writing to Chaffetz, R-Utah, “this appears to be a textbook violation of government ethics laws and regulations enacted to prevent the abuse of an employee’s government position.”
The Maryland Democrat cited federal statutes, an executive order signed by President George W. Bush and regulations put out by the Office Government Ethics that prohibit using public office for personal gain.
Cummings argued that since the oversight panel has jurisdiction over laws addressing White House employees it should make the referral.
A spokeswoman for Cummings told CNN that the Maryland Democrat spoke by phone with Chaffetz and that they are drafting a joint letter to the Office of Government Ethics asking what penalty it would recommend for Conway.
Different government agencies have different penalties for rules violations for employees using public office for private gain, with some imposing a five-day suspension to removal, and others recommending a two week suspension to removal for the offense.
The federal law in question prevents public employees from making an”endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”
Both instances of potential ethics violations were clearly not done for personal gain, or even to pad the profits of Ivanka’s company. Conway advocated that people buy Ivanka’s products in order to punish CEOs who dumped Ivanka’s product line by making their competitors richer.
In a strict reading of ethics laws (and when have the Democrats ever “strictly” read any law?), Conway is probably guilty. No doubt tomorrow Democrats will be calling on her to resign.
But Conway deserves whatever the lightest sentence that the ethics board can hand down is. And then we can be done with one more silly distraction that has Democrats hyperventilating.