Is Nepotism Illegal? Ivanka Trump’s White House Job Still Has People Concerned
On Wednesday, Ivanka Trump finally made her position within her father's administration official. By taking an official job with the White House, the first daughter likely intended to quell the controversy surrounding her involvement in the administration. In reality, she may have done the exact opposite, opening a Pandora's Box of questions and concerns of nepotism. For federal officials, nepotism is illegal, but Ivanka's White House job may still be safe.
From the campaign trail to the White House, Ivanka has long been her father's closest adviser. Since the inauguration, she has attended official meetings with him, and she has reportedly planned an official visit to Germany later this spring to attend the W20 summit. Despite this significant involvement in her father's politics, it wasn't clear until Wednesday what title Ivanka actually held.
As first reported by The New York Times, Ivanka will now serve as a "special assistant to the president." The title gives her role legitimacy, but it hasn't put an end to the controversy surrounding her family's involvement in the administration. That's largely because nepotism — the hiring of one's relatives — is explicitly forbidden for federal officials. In fact, the nepotism rule identifies which relatives an official cannot hire — and "daughter" is near the top of the list.
According to the House of Representatives' Committee on Ethics, federal officials are barred from "appointing, promoting, or recommending for appointment or promotion any 'relative' of the official" to an agency that the official oversees. However, one loophole could keep Ivanka in her newfound position. The law seems to apply only to those positions that are paid — and, conveniently, Ivanka's job is unpaid.
The first daughter isn't the first Trump relative to take such a position. In January, even before Trump's inauguration, Bloomberg reported that Jared Kushner, Ivanka's husband and the president's son-in-law, would take an unpaid position as a senior White House adviser. Sons-in-law do qualify as a relative under the federal nepotism rule, but the lack of compensation seems to have kept Kushner's role intact so far. Just before Ivanka's position was announced, the administration earlier this week announced Kushner as the head of Trump's new Office of American Innovation.
Ivanka's new title may have reignited concerns of nepotism, but it doesn't seem like much about her role will actually change in light of Wednesday's announcement. She will now officially be subject to federal ethics rules, but according to her statement on Wednesday, she had already planned to comply with those anyway. If anything, Ivanka's new title could pave the way for greater transparency from the White House.