CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—Jared Kushner appears to be violating federal law by working extensively on President Trump’s re-election campaign from the White House, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Office of U.S. Special Counsel (OSC).
While the Hatch Act prohibits most executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while on government property or on duty, a narrow exception does allow some political activity by senior political appointees paid by the White House. It does not, however, allow it by Kushner, who declined to accept a salary in his position as a Senior Advisor to President Trump. It may not be clear why Kushner made that choice, but it is clear that it has legal consequences, including allowing him to get around a conflict of interest law. But while a conflict of interest law does not apply to him, neither does the Hatch Act exception.
“Given the track record for officials in this administration illegally using their official positions for politics at unprecedented rates, it is unsurprising that Jared Kushner has found himself in this situation,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “However, the law applies to everyone, even the son-in-law of the president.”
Even if Kushner qualified for the exemption, OSC has indicated that employees who fall under the exception were not intended to engage in extensive political activity during normal business hours. The level of Kushner’s campaign work–reportedly effectively running the president’s campaign–would very likely qualify as extensive political activity.
Kushner’s deep involvement in President Trump’s re-election campaign from the White House has been widely reported. Kushner reportedly is “positioning himself now as the person officially overseeing the entire [Trump] campaign from his office in the West Wing, organizing campaign meetings and making decisions about staffing and spending.” He also reportedly oversees several elements of the campaign, including fundraising, strategy and advertising. Kushner has not shied away from touting his involvement in President Trump’s re-election campaign over the past year. admitting to working “to set goals and objectives” for his father-in-law’s presidential campaign.
As recently as March 2020, Kushner was scheduling meetings alongside President Trump, Hope Hicks and campaign staff inside the White House on polling numbers. While the coronavirus crisis derailed the meeting before the presentation began, Kushner’s inclusion in the meeting indicates he continues to overlap his official and campaign duties.
“OSC needs to investigate Kushner’s behavior to ensure that he is complying with the Hatch Act,” said Bookbinder. “There is no room in our government for top officials who deliberately violate ethics laws.”
This is not the first time a member of the Trump administration has shown blatant disregard for the Hatch Act. Since President Trump’s inauguration, CREW has launched several complaints against Trump administration appointees, leading to an unprecedented number of reprimands against top officials such as Dan Scavino, Nikki Haley, Stephanie Grisham, Raj Shah, Jessica Ditto, Madeleine Westerhout, Helen Aguirre Ferre, Alyssa Farah, Jacob Wood, Kellyanne Conway and Lynne Patton. Following CREW’s complaints against Kellyanne Conway, OSC took the unprecedented step of recommending Conway be removed from federal service in a scathing report detailing her numerous ethics violations.