Former ethics adviser files complaint against Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway
WASHINGTON – The dispute over Roy Moore's Senate campaign has now led to a legal complaint against White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
Walter Shaub, a former government ethics official and frequent critic of President Trump, said Conway's comments about Moore's Democratic challenger Doug Jones may be a violation of the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from getting involved in elections. Shaub said he filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
This will be the first test of POTUS's new head of the Office of Special Counsel. Will he hold Presidential appointees in this administration to the standard to which his predecessor held Presidential appointees in the last administration? https://t.co/t7Y9gU8Gs6— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 21, 2017
"She's standing in front of the White House. It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate," tweeted Shaub, who earlier this year left his job as director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
During a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Conway said: "I just want everybody to know Doug Jones, nobody ever says his name and they pretend that he's some kind of conservative Democrat in Alabama and he's not."
What @POTUS says below=what I said yesterday on @foxandfriends . I addressed Doug Jones. I did not address Roy Moore. Let Alabama choose its representatives. Let taxpayers know who uses our money to settle sexual harassment suits & why. #MeToo #HappyThanksgiving https://t.co/Ebap1xW233— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) November 21, 2017
The White House pushed back on the idea that Conway used her official position to weigh in on the election.
"Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate, and specifically declined to encourage Alabamans to vote a certain way," Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement.
"She was speaking about issues and her support for the President's agenda," Shah continued. "This election is for the people of Alabama to decide."
In an apparent response to Shaub on Twitter, Conway said her comments mirrored those of President Trump.
"I addressed Doug Jones," Conway said. "I did not address Roy Moore. Let Alabama choose its representatives."
I'm told Kellyanne Conway spoke with Trump about the Alabama Senate race before she went on Fox yesterday. During that interview, she said a vote for Jones was a vote against tax reform & stopped short of endorsing Moore.— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) November 21, 2017
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which handles Hatch Act cases, has previously flagged statements by Conway as possible ethics violations.
Earlier this year, Conway spoke on Fox News from the White House briefing room and urged viewers to "go buy Ivanka's stuff" – appearing to endorse the fashion line by Trump's daughter. Ethics rules prohibit government officials from using their positions to to endorse any product or service.
Richard Painter, former ethics lawyer for president George W. Bush, agreed that Conway appeared to violate the Hatch Act "by using her position to take sides in a partisan election."
That, he tweeted, "is a firing offense. And for her this is strike two."
Trashing Doug Jones is the same as urging people to vote for Roy Moore. This is a Hatch Act violation.It looks like Kellyanne Conway broke a federal law on national TV again https://t.co/gO8u9TbzRb via @thinkprogress— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) November 22, 2017
The Office of Government Ethics reprimanded her after she went on national television in February and promoted Ivanka Trump products after a number of retailers stopped hawking her fashion line.
"Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would tell you," Conway said at the time. "I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody."