Email #68, Subject: business and politics?

In addition to breaking his campaign promise to release his taxes after the election and so reveal his conflicts of interests, the President has openly criticized the Nordstrom company for cancelling his daughter’s clothing line. This caused an immediate though brief drop in Nordstrom’s stocks. Press Secretary Spicer defended the President’s tweet, arguing that Nordstrom was attacking the President.

I don’t know if Nordstrom dropped the clothing line because of weak sales, fear of a boycott by anti-Trump buyers, or its own political differences with the President. Whatever their reason, however, they are within their rights. Kellyanne Conway, however, stepped well outside her rights as a White House spokesperson when she endorsed the clothing line: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to just, I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

Since government employees are barred from endorsing private businesses, Conway’s statement violates ethics rules. As you of course know, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee has reported Conway to the Office of Government Ethics. At first I thought this was the same Ethics Office that your failed amendment would have stripped of its non-partisan independence last month, but I believe that was the Office of Congressional Ethics, which of course could not reprimand, suspend, demote or dismiss Conway as the Oversight chair has demanded.

Given the poor national reaction you and your amendment received then, and your continuing role as chair of the ethics-focused House Judiciary Committee, as well as your stated reelection priority to check the executive branch, I am confused that you have not responded to either Conway’s or the President’s statements. Are you at all concerned about the White House’s merging of political and business interests? If not, would you please give your interpretation of the Nordstrom situation and explain what exactly for you would constitute an ethics violation? What more would Conway or the President need to do in order for you to criticize them?

Chris Gavaler

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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