Politico

Senators request ethics probe after Ivanka Trump's Goya endorsement


Days after Ivanka Trump created an uproar for endorsing Goya Foods after its CEO praised her father, a pair of senators want an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s daughter violated federal ethics rules.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics inquiring about possible disciplinary action for Ivanka Trump, who serves as a senior adviser in the White House.

The president’s daughter is facing criticism after posting a photo last week of herself holding a can of Goya black beans and giving the English and Spanish versions of the Latino food company’s trademarked slogan: “If it’s Goya, it has to be good. Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno.” It appeared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The post came five days after Goya CEO Robert Unanue heaped adulation on Trump at a July 9 roundtable with Hispanic leaders at the White House, saying “we’re so blessed” to have him as a leader.

“The timing of her remarks creates the appearance, at least, that praise for Trump Administration officials may elicit later endorsements from these same officials,” according to the senators’ letter, obtained by POLITICO.

The president followed his daughter’s post with his own Instagram photo of himself behind his desk in the Oval Office, giving two thumbs-up over several of the company’s products.

The White House defended Ivanka Trump but declined to answer specific questions about her ethics training on Tuesday.

“This tweet was made in her personal capacity voicing her personal support,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week. “This complaint is another politically motivated, baseless attack from an organization with a vendetta against all of the administration”

It’s not the first time the Trump administration has been accused of crossing ethical lines. Trump has been criticized for trying to use the presidency to make money. His aides have been accused of using their platform to campaign for the president and his allies, a violation of the Hatch Act. And other staffers have promoted a private business before.

Goya, a multibillion dollar company founded by Unanue’s grandfather, bills itself as America’s largest Hispanic-owned food company with 4,500 employees. It has faced boycotts since Unanue made his remarks.

“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” he said at the July 9 roundtable. “And that’s what my grandfather did: He came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper. And so we have an incredible builder, and we pray … for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”

Federal ethics laws prevent federal employees from using their positions “for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responded to Ivanka Trump’s tweet, writing in Spanish: “If it’s Trump, it has to be corrupt.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, also filed a complaint with OGE last week.

“This is not just about beans; it’s another example of a disturbing pattern of this administration acting to benefit the businesses of the president’s supporters,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “Senior Trump officials continue to act like ethics laws do not apply to them.”

CREW had previously filed a similar complaint in 2017 against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway after she endorsed Ivanka Trump’s product line from the White House. “I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online,” she said. Conway received ethics counseling following the complaint.

In their letter, Carper and Warren ask OGE whether Ivanka Trump violated ethics rules and what disciplinary action she could face. They also requested information about ethics training for White House employees and a review of the White House ethics program. They are seeking a response by Aug. 10.

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