We should expect nothing substantially corrective nor any major disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway for using her official position to solicit merchandise under the President’s family brand of business, in particular Ivana Trump’s clothing line. There is no doubt that in Conway doing so she is currying undue favor for promotion. No punitive measures at a minimum to set a precedent for this administration will be waged against Conway’s apparent ethics violations because she is above all ethics as long as Trump is her boss. Actually President Trump is not just a government official’s boss he is also the general public’s boss and whatever he says or thinks stands.
Federal law states that the director of the Office of Government Ethics can advise the White House and Conway of the violation and recommend disciplinary action. But the OGE’s recommendations are nonbinding, and the ultimate decision resides with the White House.
After reading many articles including the Washington Post on this subject and an informative insider expose from The New Yorker it appears Conway can do no wrong nor can she be held accountable for any indiscretion done in the name of Trump. This is because Trump has stated that most of the ethics laws and rules don’t apply to the president. By next week this would already become a forgone conclusion. However, what this White House kerfuffle does signal is that Conway’s morals which are pretty much aligned with the administration’s does trump ethics.
As I understand ethics, it is the formulation of a set of rules that is an extension of moral reasoning. But Conway’s moral reasoning contrasts with the ethics that have served the public and has been written prior to her being born. Conway’s defense was of the double-standard variety when she used the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s choices of attire as a commercial endorsement. The New Yorker piece KELLYANNE CONWAY’S BATTLE FOR TRUMP’S FAVOR, reportedly stated her rationale in depth.
Conway thought the prohibition against commercial endorsements was overly broad. Hadn’t Michelle Obama made commercial endorsements by wearing J. Crew clothes or by promoting certain fashion designers? “What if you had worn a Tom Brady jersey the day after the Super Bowl?” she asked Spicer, who is a New England Patriots fan. “If I show up in an Ivanka Trump dress, I’m violating it?”
While Ms. Obama has worn J. Crew attire she simply wore the attire as a customer, she never actually demanded that people go buy it. Ms. Obama never received any special benefit for wearing J.Crew either, even though representatives of J. Crew would have been eager to give them. The creative Director even spoke of the former First Lady as never once asking for discounts.
In an interview with ABC News, J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons says the First Lady and her kin have never used their power to try to score special discounts:
They go to our website and they purchase just like anybody else,” Lyons said. “She acts like a customer and she has a stylist who helps her, but she doesn’t call in any special favors. They don’t ask for any discounts. It’s pretty unbelievable. … She still continues to wear the product without any help from us.”
I am not sure why any of that would be unbelievable, but it may speak to having a different set of morals. Furthermore Ms. Obama — with a JD from Harvard Law in 1988 and having worked as an Associate at Sidley Austin in the marketing and intellectual property — and her family had no financial stake nor interest in J. Crew and I am sure being a competent lawyer, she would never make that unethical and immoral mistake.
Once again false equivalences abound in this White House and are easily dispatched as motivated ignorance in attempts at issuing grievances against what they see has media bias. However, and more importantly, how they see the general public in all of this is clear though — we are a bunch of fools. It is clear that along with biased conclusions of political subterfuge, unwieldy influence and power can cloud conscionable judgment. If we fall for this we obviously fall for anything coming out of this administration.