Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin All But Apologizes For Plugging 'The Lego Batman Movie'
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Is The Lego Batman Movie the best movie of the year thus far? Quite possibly. Has it grossed nearly $300 million internationally to date? Yes. Is it an ethics violation for current US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (who served as executive producer of the film) to endorse it? Absolutely.
Speaking at an event hosted last week by news start-up Axios, Mnuchin stated, “I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to Lego Batman,” notes The Hollywood Reporter.
And, just a reminder, here is what the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations says on the matter:
An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.
On Friday morning, NBC News published a copy of the letter Mnuchin sent to the Office of Government Ethics in which he all but apologized for his non-recommendation.
First to NBC: Mnuchin sends letter to OGE after Lego Batman movie comments in Axios interview pic.twitter.com/IIAYcg3tH5— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) March 31, 2017
"I want to assure you that I was aware of the rule against using public office to promote a particular product, as I specifically acknowledged in the interview, and in responding to the question posted by the interviewer, it was not my intention to make a product endorsement," Mnuchin wrote to OGE Director Walter Shaub.
This is the second high profile brush with the OGE over an alleged product plug from a member of the Trump administration in two months. In early February, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said, "Go buy Ivanka's stuff," during an interview with Fox News' Fox & Friends, reports NBC News.
In response to Conway's comments, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated, Conway "has been counseled on that subject, and that's all."