Top Dem Cummings Says Conway Violated Ethics Rules, Despite His Own Ethics History

Elijah Cummings / AP
February 9, 2017

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) sent a letter on Thursday to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asking the committee to review taking "disciplinary action" against Kellyanne Conway for violating government ethics laws.

Cummings' decision to write the letter stemmed from Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, promoting Ivanka Trump's clothing line on television. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that Conway has been "counseled on that subject, and that's it."

"This appears to be a textbook violation of government ethics laws and regulations enacted to prevent the abuse of an employee's government position," Cummings wrote in his letter. He cited federal regulations implementing a decades-old ethics law that prohibit government employees from using their public office to gain from or endorse "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."

Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, has had his own difficulties with ethics laws in the past. He and his staff were embroiled in controversy in 2014 surrounding their interactions with the IRS in 2012 and 2013, when they requested information about the conservative group True the Vote, Townhall reported at the time.

True the Vote was targeted by the IRS after applying for tax exempt status more than two years ago. Further, information shows the IRS and Cummings' staff asked for nearly identical information from True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht about her organization, indicating coordination and improper sharing of confidential taxpayer information.

Cummings had denied that his office had any contact with the IRS about True the Vote during a subcommittee hearing on the allegedly IRS targeting conservative groups over tax exempt status.

In fact, on February 6, 2014 during a subcommittee hearing where Engelbrecht testified, Cummings vehemently denied having any contact or coordination in targeting True the Vote when attorney Cleta Mitchell, who is representing the group, indicated staff on the Committee had been involved in communication with the IRS.

Following the hearing, an ethics complaint was filed by Engelbrecht against Cummings for intimidating her group.

The Maryland Democrat has called the IRS probe a "witch hunt."