Ivanka Trump & Her Clothing Line Might Be Breaking The Law
The ethics of President Trump holding onto his business interests have been repeatedly called into question since he took office — and now the first daughter is under the same scrutiny. In a letter submitted Tuesday to the Office of Government Ethics, an advocacy group claims Ivanka Trump broke ethics rules by promoting her clothing. Democracy Forward urged the agency to take "immediate disciplinary action" against the presidential adviser, further alleging that she conspired with fashion blogs to promote her clothing line and increase sales.
"Ivanka Trump appears to be breaking ethics rules by using her official status to source advertisements that line her pockets," Anne Harkavy, Democracy Forward's executive director, said in a statement. "Her official duties are supposed to benefit American taxpayers, and she should not exploit this position for personal financial gain."
Democracy Forward's allegations expand on a December report from The Wall Street Journal that found Trump's brand appeared in 46 of the 68 photos she posted on social media between March 29, 2017 (when it was announced she would take an official role in the White House) and October of last year. In case you don't want to do the mental math, that means her brand was featured in 68 percent of the outfits she wore in those photos. The group's letter also claims Trump is "coordinating directly" with her clothing line, IT Collection LLC, "or third party celebrity style publications that serve to connect consumers with featured products."
The White House and OGE did not immediately respond Tuesday to Bustle's requests for comment.
Trump stepped down from running the day-to-day operations of her company when she joined the White House and put her assets in a trust controlled by her husband's family, which is similar to what her father did with the Trump Organization when he took office. And because she still owns her clothing line — just like her father still owns the Trump Organization — she still profits from it. In fact, she made between $1 and $5 million off of IT Collection LLC between March and May 2017, according to her first federal financial filing.
The average business owner posting photos of themselves wearing their clothing line wouldn't raise too many eyebrows, but Trump's position in the White House creates the potential for her status to boost her business' sales. Democracy Forward believes she's abusing the spotlight to line her own pockets by consistently posting pictures of herself wearing her clothing line and accuses her of recruiting style blogs to share those photos with a wider audience.
Questions were raised about White House officials promoting Trump's brand last February, when presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway recommended Americans "go buy Ivanka's stuff" during an interview with Fox News.
"It's a wonderful line. I own some of it," Conway said on Fox & Friends. "I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody." At the time, the extent of the White House's response was that Conway had "been counseled on that subject, and that's it."
But while the ethics of promoting Trump's brand have been called into question before, Democracy Forward's allegation that Trump coordinated with fashion publications is entirely new — as well as "more troubling," according to the group. The letter sent to the OGE explains how sites often direct readers to where they can buy the latest outfit the presidential adviser was seen wearing. As the letter states, Democracy Forward believes:
Ms. Trump is almost certainly aware of the myriad ways in which her conduct feeds this ecosystem, and the ways in which she profits from it.
The advocacy group recommended the OGE "take action to stop the ongoing use of public office to accrue private profit" by investigating whether or not Trump is violating ethics rules prohibiting federal employees from using their office for their own financial gain; the group also wants Trump to fully divest from her company.
The OGE's authority is pretty limited in that area, though, and issues are generally investigated and resolved within individual agencies (that's why the White House said it "counseled" Conway). However, the OGE does have the power to order an agency to modify its ethics program.