POLITICS

Kellyanne Conway Under Federal Investigation After Ethics Complaint

Conway slammed Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones on national TV in violation of the Hatch Act, document argues.

11/30/2017 23:18 EST

Federal officials have opened an investigation into activities by senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway following a complaint that she violated ethics laws.

The probe aims to determine if Conway broke the law when she slammed Democrat Doug Jones — who is battling Republican Roy Moore to become Alabama’s next senator — on national TV.

Conway said on “Fox & Friends” last week that Jones “will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

The Hatch Act forbids federal government employees from using their positions to influence the result of an election.

Former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint after Conway’s interview, accusing her of violating the law. The complaint argues that Conway, in her official capacity, attacked Jones to convince voters to choose Moore so that Donald Trump will have a tax plan ally in the Senate.

Ana Galindo-Marrone, the chief of the Hatch Act unit of the federal Office of Special Counsel, informed Shaub on Wednesday that her office has opened a case file to investigate the complaint. The OSC is a small agency tasked with investigating Hatch Act violations. It’s not part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

Shaub’s complaint states that Conway was clearly speaking in her official capacity as she ripped Jones in a direct effort to get Moore into the Senate to back Trump’s tax bill.

“It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate,” Shaub said, something he characterized as a “slam dunk” violation of the law.

The White House claimed that Conway’s comments did not violate the Hatch Act because she “did not advocate for or against a particular candidate” and was “speaking about issues and her support for the president’s agenda.” 

Shaub said in an amended complaint that the statement “reads more like an admission than a defense.”

Quoting the head of the Office of Special Counsel in the complaint, Shaub noted that the “law is clear: public officials paid by taxpayers cannot use their position to engage in political activities.”

“This case presents as clear a violation by a senior administration appointee as OSC is likely to encounter in the next five years,” the complaint read.

In February, when Shaub was still in office, he also complained to the White House after Conway plugged first daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand on Fox News. The White House refused to discipline Conway, saying she peddled the products in a “light, off-hand manner.”

Read the complaint below.

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