Joel Riley

Joel Riley

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Kellyanne Conway vs. Michelle Obama

Kellyanne Conway is a senior adviser to President Trump and she has received counselling over telling people to 'go buy Ivanka stuff' on tv yesterday.

Flashback to November 2016.... courtesy Washington Examiner.

In an interview with Vogue, First Lady Michelle Obama explicitly acknowledged that one of the questions she considered when choosing fashion designers was, "Can I give them a boost?"

According to Vogue, Obama remarked, "There are definitely designers that I love, people I love to work with. And who they are as people matters. Are they good people? Do they treat their staff well? Do they treat my staff well? Are they young? Can I give them a boost?"

The implication here, of course, is that Michelle Obama deliberately exploited her position as first lady to "boost" the sales of private businesses.

Consider for instance Michelle Obama's much-celebrated decision to repeatedly sport clothing from J. Crew over the course of her time in the White House. In light of her comments to Vogue, the fact that J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler donated $35,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2012, according to FEC records, and the fact that J. Crew Creative Director Jenna Lyons (also an Obama donor) explicitly credited the first lady with a "huge lift" in sales, ethics crusaders targeting Conway should be equally upset with the actions of Obama.

No, Obama did not go on television and urge Americans to buy the products of specific designers. She didn't have to. Her impact on fashion designers' bottom lines was well-documented. According to the Huffington Post, a 2010 study by the Harvard Business Review found that "Obama's wardrobe created $2.7 billion in value for 29 brands worn over the course of 189 public appearances from November 2008 to December 2009."

Her ability to create sales spikes was a widely-accepted fact.

In this context, Obama's desire to "boost" designers seems to raise the same ethical questions as Conway's statements.

It is important to note one key distinction between the two women - the statute in question applies only to federal employees, so (depending oninterpretations of the first lady's legal status) Obama's actions did not fall under its purview. But the central ethical question of whether it is appropriate for political figures to exploit their offices in an effort to benefit private businesses remains.