Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “shorted stock in a shipping firm — an investment tactic for profiting if share prices fall — days after learning that reporters were preparing a potentially negative story about his dealings with the Kremlin-linked company,” the New York Times reports.
“Do you really want to know what I think about those jerks? I think they’re a waste of time. They’re guys who can’t get a real job, ethics watchdog? Who gets a job — ethics watchdog? Give me a break.”
— Charles Kushner, in an interview with The Real Deal, about his son’s ethics problems in the White House.
“In at least a dozen interviews with Chinese and Chinese-American media outlets since her nomination, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has appeared beside her shipping magnate father, whose company carries goods between the United States and Asia, and who has given Chao and her husband at least $5 million in the past 10 years,” Politico reports.
“In many of the videos, James Chao is introduced as founder and chairman of the Foremost Group shipping company, and, in discussing a 2016 biography about his life, speaks proudly of his daughter’s role as secretary of transportation, as she sits beaming by his side.”
“The federal government’s top ethics official has taken the unusual step of sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency questioning a series of actions by Administrator Scott Pruitt and asking the agency to take ‘appropriate actions to address any violations,'” the New York Times reports.
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s top ethics watchdog clarified his earlier analysis of whether Administrator Scott Pruitt’s rental arrangement broke the federal gift rule, saying he didn’t have all the facts when evaluating the lease,” according to a memo provided to CNN.
“The official also made clear that he didn’t evaluate whether Pruitt had violated other ethics rules.”
“John Bolton, who is days away from becoming President Trump’s national security advisor, has been meeting with White House attorneys about possible conflicts of interest,” CNBC reports.
“The exact sticking points for Bolton are unclear, but ethics experts say the appearance of a possible future role for Bolton with an entity such as a political action committee could be a cause for concern for White House officials.”
“A key aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has been granted permission to make extra money moonlighting for private clients whose identities are being kept secret,” the AP reports.
Norm Eisen: “This is insane. In the Obama White House, I even made people quit uncompensated non-profit outside positions because of conflicts risks. This is FOR profit work that could conflict with official duties. Prediction: by end of Trump admin, prisons will be full of his associates.”
Politico: “The past year in Congress has been a lowlight reel of nonstop unethical — and, in some cases, potentially illegal — behavior. Three House members resigned over alleged misconduct. Four others announced they won’t seek reelection, an option they took to head off party leaders forcing them out.”
An APM Reports review of news coverage, ethics agreements and government financial disclosure forms has found that more than half of President Trump’s 20-person Cabinet has engaged in questionable or unethical conduct.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff “doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer,” the Washington Post reports.
“Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government — then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael Missal said in a report released Wednesday.”
“The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip.”
Politico: “The House Ethics Committee announced late Thursday that it was expanding its investigation into GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold to include allegations he improperly used official resources for campaign activities, as well as lying to the panel. Farenthold is already under investigation over claims that he sexually harassed at least one former staffer. Thursday’s announcement, however, means the stakes have gone up dramatically for the Texas Republican, as misuse of official resources is a potential violation of both House rules and federal law.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “is privately telling colleagues he will not back off of an ethics investigation if Roy Moore (R) is elected,” CNN reports.
“Senate Republicans plan to convene a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss their next steps if Moore wins the race.”
“State lawmakers around the country have introduced and supported policies that directly and indirectly help their own businesses, their employers and sometimes their personal finances,” according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press.
“The news organizations found numerous examples in which lawmakers’ votes had the effect of promoting their private interests. Even then, the votes did not necessarily represent a conflict of interest as defined by the state. That’s because legislatures set their own rules for when lawmakers should recuse themselves. In some states, lawmakers are required to vote despite any ethical dilemmas.”
Mike Allen: “Capitol Hill veterans expect that ‘a lot more’ sexual-harassment settlements by lawmakers will be uncovered. So now there’s a race to strengthen workplace rules that are scandalously archaic.”
“The existing system is a racket. Settlements are secret, and the Ethics Committee is notorious for protecting its own. We — as in all of us taxpayers — pay the hush money, because that’s who foots the bills for these settlements. Only a few lawmakers have publicly pushed for broad, quick change.”
Politico: “Pressure is mounting on congressional leaders to release the names of lawmakers who have secretly settled sexual harassment claims at taxpayer expense — a move that some members of Congress are loath to make. President Donald Trump told reporters this week that he believes Congress should disclose the settlements.”
“A handful of House members from both parties are calling on Republican leadership to do the same. And Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) proposed legislation Wednesday that would mandate public disclosure of sexual harassment settlements — and ban Congress from footing the bill for such deals in the future. Within a few hours of introducing his bill, DeSantis had been contacted by several Republican and Democratic lawmakers asking to sign on.”