OGE refuses to certify Kanye West’s financial disclosures, raising legal questions
In a rare move, the Office of Government Ethics declined to certify Kanye West’s public financial disclosure report from his failed presidential run. The document, obtained this morning by CREW, was reviewed for compliance with the Ethics in Government Act by OGE, as well as for “Apparent Compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act” by the Federal Election Commission, where presidential candidates file the reports.
While it is impossible to tell exactly what triggered the move by OGE, it likely revolves around West’s refusal to disclose his then-wife Kim Kardashian’s assets and income. West filed the disclosure four months before Kardashian filed for divorce.
In the section used for disclosing a spouse’s “employment assets & income and retirement accounts,” West claims an exemption under a regulation that states:
In very rare cases, certain interests in property, transactions, and liabilities of a spouse or a dependent child are excluded from reporting requirements, provided that each requirement of this paragraph is strictly met.
- The filer must certify without qualification that the item represents the spouse’s or dependent child’s sole financial interest or responsibility, and that the filer has no knowledge regarding that item;
- The item must not be in any way, past or present, derived from the income, assets or activities of the filer; and
- The filer must not derive, or expect to derive, any financial or economic benefit from the item.
This appears to be an issue, because based on publicly available information, he would know some of her assets and sources of income, including her television show and her SKIMS products, which are constantly being advertised on television and social media. West himself has appeared on 33 episodes of Kardashian’s TV show. The exemption he claimed is very rarely invoked, only in circumstances where the filer has no knowledge of the spouse’s assets and income sources, such as when there is a prenup that precludes any sharing of information. That does not appear to apply in this case because the Kardashian income streams are extremely public.
A second possible issue revolves around trusts. West discloses that he is a trustee of three different trusts, but doesn’t disclose details of the trusts or their assets. OGE regulations state that, “Each financial disclosure report must include the information required by this subpart about the holdings of and income from the holdings of any trust, estate, investment fund or other financial arrangement from which income is received by, or with respect to which a beneficial interest in principal or income is held by, the filer, the filer’s spouse, or dependent child.” It is possible that the assets or income from trusts are reported but not specifically identified, that West or his family members do not retain a beneficial interest, or that the trusts are now empty.
The Ethics in Government Act requires, under law, a complete disclosure of assets and income. West signed that the form is “true, complete and correct to the best of [his] knowledge.” By refusing to certify it, OGE sends a message that it does not believe that West is in compliance with the law. OGE has the authority to refer reporting failures to DOJ for investigation and potential civil penalties or prosecution.
West’s campaign is no stranger to financial issues. The FEC flagged his campaign for “multiple donations from minors, multiple possible contributions from foreign nationals and several fake names and addresses that trace to drop-shipping warehouses on both coasts.”
Photo by NRK P3 under a Creative Commons license.