American Oversight Calls for Investigation of Mnuchin for “Batman” Promotion

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may have violated federal ethics rules when he used his taxpayer-funded position to promote his own commercial interests – and non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight has called for an investigation.

On Friday, March 24, Mr. Mnuchin spoke at a public event and urged the audience and those watching on C-SPAN to “send all your kids to Lego Batman,” a movie for which he served as an executive producer. Mr. Mnuchin appeared to know that he was crossing the line, prefacing his remarks with a meaningless disclaimer: “I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in… you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product.”

“Even when they clearly know the rules, Trump administration officials clearly feel they aren’t bound by them,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “This is what happens when people like Kellyanne Conway face no consequences for their actions: a disturbing culture of impunity. This casual habit of self-promotion bodes ill for when the administration embarks on large-scale projects with billions of American tax dollars at stake.”

The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch speaks plainly to this situation – and it applies even in cases where an employee acknowledges in advance that he plans to break the rules:

An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product . . . or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including . . . persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.

Even more specifically, the Ethical Standards bar an employee from using his position or authority to induce another person to provide a financial benefit to himself or others with whom he is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.

This is not the first time that Mr. Mnuchin has been in trouble for his ethical conduct. Earlier this year during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mnuchin was forced to admit that he had failed to disclose over $100 million in assets.

On Friday, American Oversight sent a letter to the Treasury Department’s top ethics official and asked for an investigation into whether Mr. Mnuchin’s remarks violated federal law. American Oversight also wrote to the Office of Government Ethics asking for that office to monitor the Treasury Department’s investigation.

You can view and download the letters below.


March 24, 2017 – American Oversight Letter to Treasury Regarding Secretary Mnuchin by American Oversight on Scribd

March 24, 2017 – American Oversight Letter to OGE Regarding Secretary Mnuchin by American Oversight on Scribd

Related Blog Posts

November 16, 2017

American Oversight Statement Regarding DOI Report on Zinke Travel

Department of the Interior
Investigation Update
November 8, 2017

American Oversight Statement on Carl Icahn Investigation

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
November 8, 2017

Statement on Interference in AT&T-Time Warner Merger

Department of Justice
General News
November 6, 2017

Over 50 New FOIA Requests Filed Last Week

General News
November 2, 2017

New Emails: Ivanka Trump Continued Using Personal Account in White House

Department of the Treasury
Investigation Update
November 2, 2017

FOIA In Action: Helping Journalists Expose Questionable Behavior By Trump’s Appointees

Department of Education, Department of Labor, Small Business Administration
General News
October 27, 2017

American Oversight Calls for Investigation of Payments Made to Trump Organization

Investigation Update
October 24, 2017

Texts Show SBA Staff Tried to “Crop the Opulence” from Trump Hotel Event

Small Business Administration
Investigation Update
October 20, 2017

Congressional Russia Investigations Must be Transparent and Credible

General News
October 17, 2017

5 Questions for Attorney General Sessions

Department of Justice
October 10, 2017

New Lawsuit Seeks Answers about Ben Carson’s Management of HUD

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Investigation Update
October 6, 2017

American Oversight Calls for Investigation of Manhattan DA Vance’s Failure to Investigate Fraud at Trump SoHo Development

General News
October 5, 2017

Call for Ethics Investigation of Rep. Luke Messer

Office of Congressional Ethics
General News
October 5, 2017

Lawsuit Seeks Records of Lolita Zinke’s Travel, Role at Department of the Interior

Department of the Interior
General News
October 3, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Calendars Show Deep Industry Connections

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
September 18, 2017

Austin Evers Discusses Trump Inaugural Funds on MSNBC

General News
September 12, 2017

New Lawsuit: Did the FBI Really Advise Sessions to Omit Russian Contacts?

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
August 28, 2017

Statement on EPA IG Investigation of Pruitt Travel

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
July 27, 2017

Call for OSC Investigation of Pruitt Travel to Oklahoma

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
July 6, 2017

American Oversight Statement on Resignation of OGE Director Shaub

Office of Government Ethics
General News
June 28, 2017

Ethics Watchdog Sues GSA for Trump International Hotel Lease Records

General Services Administration
Investigation Update
June 23, 2017

Francisco & the Travel Ban: What We Learned from the DOJ Documents

Department of Justice
Investigation Update
June 7, 2017

Statement on the Release of Lobbyist Ethics Waivers

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
May 31, 2017

Investigation of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Apparent Presence at ExxonMobil Deal Signing

Department of State
Investigation Update
May 17, 2017

Watchdog Sues to Force Release of Ethics Waivers from Eight Trump Administration Agencies

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
May 9, 2017

Watchdog Sues to Release Ethics Records of Solicitor General Nominee

Department of Justice
Investigation Update
May 5, 2017

Letter to Senator Grassley: Renew Leadership on Ethics and Transparency

Office of Government Ethics
Investigation Update
April 4, 2017

10 Questions about the Border Wall that Deserve Big, Beautiful Answers

Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior
Investigation Update
March 30, 2017

Analysis: Anti-Lobbying Act & Dan Scavino

White House
General News