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March 24, 2017

Walter M. Shaub, Jr.


Director
U.S. Office of Government Ethics
1201 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Mr. Shaub:

As you may be aware, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may have violated Section 2635.702 of
the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch this morning when he
encouraged movie attendance at a film for which he is an executive producer and in which he
and/or his associates has a financial interest. American Oversight sent the enclosed letter to
Rochelle F. Granat, Treasurys Designated Agency Ethics Official, requesting an investigation.

American Oversight, a non-partisan organization dedicated to accountability and ethics in


government, is deeply concerned about the Trump administrations lack of adherence to ethical
standards. As we note in the enclosed letter, Mr. Mnuchin seemed to be aware of the prohibition
on endorsing his film and attempted to waive the conflict simply by saying that he was not actually
promoting the movie.

Of course, this is not the first time the Ethical Standards, or even that particular section of the
Ethical Standards, has been an issue for senior members of this administration. On February 9,
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway promoted the business interests of President
Trumps daughter, Ivanka, when she declared on a national television program that the public
should Go buy Ivankas stuff . . . Im going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today,
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everybody. We are concerned that this administration has begun to develop a track record of not
taking ethical limitations seriously and of using the platform of taxpayer-funded positions to
promote private financial interests.

Your correspondence with the White Houses Designated Agency Ethics Official on Ms. Conways
statements, and the subsequent response, foreshadowed the stage set for Mr. Mnuchin: When an
employees conduct violates 5 C.F.R. 2635.702, disciplinary action serves to deter future

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Kristine Phillips, Go Buy Ivankas Stuff, Kellyanne Conway Said. Then the First Daughters
Fashion Sales Exploded., WASH. POST, Mar. 10, 2017,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/03/10/go-buy-ivankas-stuff-kellyanne-
conway-said-then-the-first-daughters-fashion-sales-exploded/?utm_term=.200b8369a4ad.

1030 15th Street NW, Suite B255, Washington, DC 20005 | AmericanOversight.org


misconduct. Not taking disciplinary action against a senior official under such circumstances risks
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undermining the ethics program.

It is time to set a marker that violations of rules will be investigated, and that violations will result in
consequences. We understand that the Office of Government Ethics does not have any actual
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investigative authority and cannot take disciplinary action against an employee of the Treasury.
Nevertheless, we strongly encourage you to impress upon the Treasury Department the
importance of discipline in these matters and to monitor Ms. Granats investigation into Mr.
Mnuchins comments.

Sincerely,

Austin R. Evers
Executive Director
American Oversight

Encl.

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Letter from Walter M. Shaub, Jr., Director, Office of Government Ethics, to Stefan C.
Passantino, Deputy Counsel to the President and Designated Agency Ethics Official, The White
House (Mar. 9, 2017), available at https://oge.app.box.com/s/r2t4v8ftjmkx4cfgfolqzievuhcvrfj2.
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Letter from Walter M. Shaub, Jr., Director, Office of Government Ethics, to Chairman Jason
Chaffetz & Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings, Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform (Feb. 13, 2017), available at https://app.box.com/s/46c4uggxa2osxj9znpfw6deizggh1ijx.

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March 24, 2017

Rochelle F. Granat
Assistant General Counsel
and Designated Agency Ethics Official
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Ms. Granat:

American Oversight respectfully requests that you immediately open an investigation into whether
Secretary Steven Mnuchin violated 5 C.F.R. 2635.702 in remarks he made at a public event
today, March 24, 2017, and to take remedial action as appropriate.

Prior to becoming Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Mnuchin had worked as both a banker at
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Goldman Sachs and a movie financier. He has 38 executive producer credits listed on the Internet
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Movie Database (IMDB.com), five of which are slated for release this year. Mr. Mnuchins latest
film venture, The LEGO Batman Movie, has grossed approximately $287.6 million worldwide
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since its February 10 arrival in theaters.

Today, while speaking at a public event hosted by Axios, Mr. Mnuchin was asked, Whats a
movie that we should see? Mr. Mnuchin responded saying, Well, Im not allowed to promote
anything that Im involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, youve asked me the
question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to Lego
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Batman.

The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch speaks plainly to this
situation:

An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain,
for the endorsement of any product . . . , or for the private gain of
friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in

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Elahe Izadi, Trumps Treasury Pick Steven Mnuchin Is Behind Some of Hollywoods Biggest
Movies, WASH. POST, Nov. 30, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-
entertainment/wp/2016/11/30/trumps-treasury-pick-steven-mnuchin-is-behind-some-of-hollywoods-
biggest-movies/?utm_term=.751c0f49ed80.
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Steven Mnuchin, IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6518391/ (last visited Mar. 24, 2017).
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Box office / business for The LEGO Batman Movie, IMDB,
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4116284/business?ref_=tt_dt_bus (last visited Mar. 24, 2017).
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Steve Goldstein, MnuchinAfter Admitting He Wasnt Allowed to Do SoPlugs Lego Batman,
MARKETWATCH (Mar. 24, 2017, 10:39 AM), http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mnuchin-after-
admitting-he-wasnt-allowed-to-do-so-plugs-lego-batman-2017-03-24.

1030 15th Street NW, Suite B255, Washington, DC 20005 | AmericanOversight.org


a nongovernmental capacity, including . . . persons with whom the
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employee has or seeks employment or business relations.

Even more specifically, the Standards of Ethical Conduct bar an employee from using his position
or authority to induce another person to provide a financial benefit to himself or others with whom
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he is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.

Mr. Mnuchin seemed to be aware of this prohibition and attempted to waive the conflict by saying
that he was not actually promoting the movie. Simply stating that one is aware of the rules and thus
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not violating them does not absolve any subsequent violation. It is your responsibility as
Designated Agency Ethics Official for the Department of the Treasury to ensure that prompt and
effective action, including administrative action, is taken to remedy known violations of ethics rules
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and laws.

As the Standards of Ethical Conduct set out, [p]ublic service is a public trust, requiring employees
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to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain. Violations
of this standard erode public confidence in the integrity of government operations and those
holding public office. In response to similar conduct by Counselor to the President Kellyanne
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Conway, the Office of Government Ethics urged discipline to deter future violations.

American Oversight is a non-partisan organization dedicated to accountability and ethics in


government. No doubt we share that commitment with you. We urge you to investigate Mr.
Mnuchins statements, and, if you find he violated the law, recommend appropriate corrective or
disciplinary action pursuant to 5 C.F.R. 2635.106.

Sincerely,

Austin R. Evers
Executive Director
American Oversight

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5 C.F.R. 2635.702.
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5 C.F.R. 2635.702(a).
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See Josh Gerstein, Ethics Agency Says HUD Chief Castro Violated Hatch Act, POLITICO (July
18, 2016, 5:24 PM), http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/julian-castro-ethics-hud-hatch-225732
(A cabinet secretary stated during a media interview that he was taking off my HUD hat for a
second and just speaking individually, but the Office of Special Counsel still found him to have
violated the Hatch Act.).
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See Treas. Dir. 61-06 (Dec. 29, 2008), available at https://www.treasury.gov/about/role-of-
treasury/orders-directives/Pages/td61-06.aspx.
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5 C.F.R. 2635.101(b)(1).
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Letter from Walter M. Shaub, Jr., Director, Office of Government Ethics, to Stefan C.
Passantino, Deputy Counsel to the President and Designated Agency Ethics Official, The White
House (Feb. 13, 2017), available at https://app.box.com/s/46c4uggxa2osxj9znpfw6deizggh1ijx.

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cc: Walter M. Shaub, Jr.
Director
U.S. Office of Government Ethics
1201 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005