Weeks after the State Department used its website and social media platforms to promote President Donald Trump’s private club in Florida, taxpayer-funded Voice of America is promoting Ivanka Trump’s new book on its website and Twitter account.
The link in the tweet is to an Associated Press article reposted on the Voice of America’s website. The piece characterizes Ivanka’s new book, entitled “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” as embodying the new White House employee’s transition from “sassy to serious.”
The book “offers earnest advice for women on advancing in the workplace, balancing family and professional life and seeking personal fulfilment [sic],” the piece notes. “She is donating the proceeds to charity and has opted not to do any publicity to avoid any suggestion that she is improperly using her White House platform.”
But the article and VOA’s promotion of it serve as publicity in and of itself. The article also doesn’t say which charity Ivanka plans to donate her book proceeds to, or how people will be able to verify she actually did so.
As we learned during the campaign, thanks largely to the reporting of the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, Ivanka’s father’s boasts about his charitable giving were grossly exaggerated. After he was elected president, Trump — who, like Ivanka, still owns his business — vowed to donate all profits from foreign governments.
But Trump has provided no evidence that he’s actually following through. The House Oversight Committee recently requested documents from the Trump Organization to prove his vow wasn’t just a bait-and-switch.
The degree to which Ivanka is actually following through on her plan to separate from the business she still owns while she serves in the White House is also a matter of trust (or lack thereof). She turned over day-to-day management of her company to her top executive and transferred its assets to a trust overseen by relatives of her husband, sparking concerns that all she has to do is pick up the phone to exert influence.
The New York Times reported that Ivanka “will receive regular financial reports on her company,” just as her father receives reports regarding the Trump Organization.
Shortly after the election, Ivanka’s brand marketed a $10,000 bracelet she wore during a 60 Minutes appearance.
Then, weeks after his inauguration, Trump used the power of the presidency to shill for Ivanka’s brand.
Norm Eisen, former Obama administration ethics czar, tweeted that the VOA’s promoting of Ivanka’s book constitutes a violation of federal law.
This isn’t the first time Ivanka’s business interests have created controversy since the inauguration. On February 9, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway offered a shameless plug for Ivanka Trump’s brand during a Fox & Friends interview. Conway’s endorsement prompted the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to send the White House a letter asking for an investigation and recommending that Conway be disciplined, but the White House decided to let it slide.
After the State Department promoted Mar-a-Lago, Eisen told ThinkProgress that the White House’s refusal to discipline Conway would likely embolden future violations of 2635.702, a federal statute that prohibits federal employees from using public offices for private gain.
VOA’s promotion of Ivanka’s book comes as concerns mount that the government-funded media outlet is on its way to becoming an international Trump propaganda outlet — a possibility that became starkly apparent when the VOA provided stenography of Press Secretary’s Sean Spicer’s evidence-free claims that Trump’s inauguration was the best attended of all time (it wasn’t) on the first full day of Trump’s presidency.
As the New Republic reported last month, “A month after Trump was elected, Republicans in Congress changed the VOA’s governing structure, replacing its independent and bipartisan board of governors with a CEO appointed directly by the president. And in January, the Trump administration dispatched two young staffers to monitor the VOA’s operations and assist with the transition: Matthew Ciepielowski, who hails from the Koch-founded group Americans for Prosperity, and Matthew Schuck, who worked as a staff writer for the Daily Surge, a right-wing news site that traffics in ‘alternative facts.’”
“Taken together, the moves indicate that Trump is poised to turn the government news service — which reaches a global audience of 236 million every week through its radio and TV broadcasts — into a mouthpiece for his personal brand,” the New Republic added.