Washington, DC – Non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today filed a complaint with the State Department’s Inspector General and the Office of Government Ethics after discovering the State Department is promoting President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on U.S. embassy websites. American Oversight also launched an investigation into whether this taxpayer-funded ad campaign was ordered by the White House.
“Contrary to President Trump’s belief, the presidency is not one 4-year-long infomercial for the Trump brand. Unfortunately, it seems the State Department has lost sight of this or else employees are so eager to impress their new boss, they are willing to ignore the law,” said Melanie Sloan, Senior Advisor at American Oversight. “After all, Kellyanne Conway was merely ‘counseled’ when she violated federal law – but delighted the president – by promoting Ivanka Trump’s shoes. What better way to impress the boss than to violate ethics laws?”
Marketing Trump properties via official State Department websites flies in the face of U.S. efforts to combat cronyism and kleptocracy abroad. It is also against the law to use government resources to promote private business ventures. Promoting Mar-a-Lago appears to violate Section 2635.702 of the Standards of Ethical Conduct, which prohibits government employees from using their public office to endorse private enterprise.
On Tuesday, American Oversight sent a letter to the State Department Inspector General, the Office of Government Ethics, and Congressional oversight committees calling for an investigation into how and why the article promoting Trump properties was written and distributed.
American Oversight also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department seeking any records or communications regarding the decision to write an article promoting Mar-a-Lago, as well as any directives given to U.S. embassies in the United Kingdom or other countries to post that article on their websites.
From President Trump using a diplomatic visit from the President of China to trumpet Mar-A-Lago’s dessert menu, to Kellyanne Conway promoting Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand, to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s plug for his own movie, the Trump administration has repeatedly used public resources to support their private ventures.
Ms. Sloan continued, “Perhaps now that House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz has announced his retirement from Congress, he will feel freed to actually conduct the robust oversight of the administration he had pledged in advance of November’s election.”
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