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Kellyanne Conway Endorsed Ivanka Trump's Brand, Which is Pretty Illegal

"I'm going to give a free commercial here, go buy it today everybody," is not the job of the Counselor to the President of the United States, as it turns out.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Donald Trump and the woman who briefly ruined Gucci for me, can't stop putting her foot in her mouth. Following perhaps her greatest hit, "Alternative Facts," comes this goof, courtesy of an appearance on (what else) "Fox & Friends," in which Conway uses her position of power to promote Ivanka Trump's brand.

There's a lot of crazy stuff going on in this world, but none as important to Donald Trump as the fact that retailers can't drop his daughter Ivanka Trump's fashion line fast enough. He took time out of his daily intelligence briefing on Wednesday to tweet about it, lamenting that she was being treated "so unfairly" by Nordstrom. Nordstrom, by the way, was clear that this had to do with increasingly-flagging sales of the brand

Presumably Conway was on "Fox & Friends" from the White House to discuss other important stuff — the failed operation in Yemen, the ongoing fight in courts against Trump's Muslim ban, literally anything else — but decided to use her time as a White House mouthpiece to promote Ivanka Trump's line. "Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I would say," she says. "I hate shopping, but I'm going to get some for myself today." 

"It's a wonderful line, I own some of it," she continues. "I'm going to give a free commercial here, go buy it today everybody, you can find it online."

There's a slight problem, though: What Conway did is actually illegal. (I know, from this administration? Shocking!) Federal Law from the Office of Government Ethics states:

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An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the 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, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.

Oops. Conway is definitely a federal employee, which means she should theoretically face disciplinary action. "This is a well-established government regulation," says Joe Patrice, editor at our sister site Above the Law. "The stated penalty for Kellyanne's apparent violation of this is found earlier in 5 CFR 2635:"

'It is the responsibility of the employing agency to initiate appropriate disciplinary or corrective action in individual cases. However, corrective action may be ordered or disciplinary action recommended by the Director of the Office of Government Ethics under the procedures at part 2638 of this chapter.'

That so-called "free commercial" could, in other words, cost Conway her job. Per the law, corrective action includes, but is not limited to, "restitution, change of assignment, disqualification, divestiture, termination of an activity, waiver, the creation of a qualified diversified or blind trust or counseling"; disciplinary action includes, but is not limited to, "reprimand, suspension, demotion and removal."

It could be a little sticky since Ivanka Trump announced she would be backing away from her own brand in an attempt to fall in line with ethics laws. Of course, the actual likelihood that Conway faces any real consequences for her actions are slim (again, shocking!) since that would require someone in the administration taking action against a Trump favorite. "More or less we're relying Trump or the Director of the Office of Government Ethics to order some kind of punishment here," Patrice says. "I'm not sure we should hold our breath."

Anyway, bad news for them either way, as Nordstrom's stock actually rebounded from the initial, minor hit it took following Trump's tweets to end the day on a high. 

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