Activist Group Demands Ethics Investigation of Ivanka Trump Over Ties to Clothing Brand

Ivanka Trump - Getty - H 2017
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Though Trump officially stepped away from her brand last year, she still profits from it.

The organization Democracy Forward is calling for an investigation of Ivanka Trump and her affiliation with her eponymous clothing brand.

Though it was over a year ago that Trump handed the reins to current CEO Abigail Klem, the first daughter does still profit from the company she founded in 2011. (A source at the Ivanka Trump brand tells The Hollywood Reporter that "the brand is apolitical, and is not affiliated with policy or the White House in any capacity.") According to The New York Times, the company is currently being held in a trust which is overseen by husband Jared Kushner's relatives.

The federal watchdog group Democracy Forward, which was founded by several of Hillary Clinton's former campaign officials and advisors, issued a letter to the director of the Office of Government Ethics on Monday calling for an investigation into Trump's affiliation and promotion of the brand. In the same letter, the group asks the OGE to recommend to Trump that she completely divest from her company.

Democracy Forward decided to pursue an investigation after a Wall Street Journal review reported that Trump has worn pieces from her own brand in 68 percent of her social media posts since becoming an advisor to the president. Though she does not explicitly promote the brand herself, Trump's fashion choices are regularly featured on blogs which not only identify the clothing but use affiliate links for readers to purchase the looks. Following the Journal's report, CNN's New Day pointed out that a cold-shoulder dress worn by Trump to an official NASA event on Dec. 11 sold out on the same day on Macy's website.

The same source at the Ivanka Trump brand tells THR that "Ivanka has been publicly separated from the brand for over a year. Her clothing choices are made without brand participation or knowledge."

According to Elite Daily, Democracy Forward writes in its letter that Trump is in violation of the OGE's requirement that "an employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise." The group hopes the investigation will settle whether or not there has been coordination between publications who use Trump's social media posts to link to shoppable products and Trump or her team. 

Democracy Forward also points out that the publicity generated for Trump's products via her social media posts is something that Trump should be well aware of given her experience in the retail industry and her understanding of the reach of her Instagram.

Regarding allegations of ethics violations, a representative for Trump told the Journal, "If what motivated me was to grow my businesses and make money, I would have stayed in New York and done just that."