A State Department office retweeted Ivanka Trump’s post promoting her new book on Wednesday, likely violating a federal rule that bars the use of public office for private gain.
A federal government employee “shall not use his public office for his own private gain, 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,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations (5 CFR 2635.702, to be specific).
Trump, who serves as a White House special counselor, had already canceled her book tour last month to avoid breaking the ethics rules around self-promotion.
“Out of an abundance of caution and to avoid the appearance of using my official role to promote the book, I will not publicize the book through a promotional tour or media appearances,” the first daughter announced on Facebook.
Trump has continued to use her personal Twitter account to promote her book, Women Who Work, after reportedly consulting with the Office of Government Ethics. But that advice would not cover @GenderAtState, the official account run by the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.
Voice of America, a news outlet funded by the U.S. government, also raised eyebrows on Wednesday by posting an article to its website and Twitter feed entitled, “In New Book, Ivanka Trump Gets Serious About Women at Work.”
This is not the first time the Trump administration has been accused of improper self-promotion. The Office of Government Ethics scolded the White House in March for refusing to punish presidential aide Kellyanne Conway after she promoted Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. In April, the State Department had to delete a blog post that appeared to promote Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
“This administration, perhaps because these people have never served in government before, perhaps because Trump’s transition team decided not to pay for an ethics training about endorsing products and services, has made lapse after lapse after lapse,” said Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation (and a former HuffPost reporter).
“The historic moment we’re in where the first family’s business and public businesses have been mixed like this with no divestment from them means that this kind of blurring is novel,” Howard added. “It’s inevitable that there’s going to be some mistakes that are made, particularly when the consequences for people at the highest levels of government seem to be fairly negligible.”
A spokesperson for the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.