Style

Ivanka Trump Prohibited Her Brand From Using Her Face. It's Not Enough, Says An Ethics Expert.

She has two choices if she really wants to eliminate conflicts of interest.
03/21/2017 03:39pm ET
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Prepare to see less of this face in stores and more of it on television. 

Ivanka Trump has prohibited her eponymous fashion label from using her likeness in campaigns and social media, in yet another superficial attempt to distance herself from her business. A spokeswoman for the Ivanka Trump brand confirmed Tuesday that employees have begun working with stores to remove any imagery featuring the president’s daughter.

The news follows the revelation that Trump is getting an office in the White House as well as security clearance and government-issued “communications devices.” Though she reportedly won’t hold an official title or relieve a salary, the move signals a larger role for Ivanka in President Donald Trump’s administration, making her essentially a full-time staffer in “everything but name,” according to Politico.

To the extent such a thing is possible, the news elevates concerns over the Trump family’s business conflicts of interest. If removing her photo from Ivanka Trump products and initiatives is supposed to ease those concerns, it doesn’t at all, according to Noah Bookbinder, director of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“It’s not remotely enough,” Bookbinder told The Huffington Post. “First of all, everybody knows who she is and that the brand is connected to her ― it has her name on it ― and what she’s doing now. The fact that they are not using her likeness in promoting it doesn’t really change the association that literally everybody will have with it.”

Jean Baptiste Lacroix via Getty Images
In a different world at the launch of her spring footwear line at Nordstrom in 2011

Conflicts regarding Ivanka Trump’s brand began even before her father’s inauguration. In November, media outlets received a “style alert” touting the $10,800 bracelet Trump wore from her own collection while appearing on “60 Minutes.” Following massive backlash, the brand promised “new policies and procedures” would be put in place.

But last week, a San Francisco-based clothing company filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Ivanka Trump’s company of unfair competition “by exploiting the power and prestige of the White House.” The lawsuit notes Trump’s brand sales surged in February after her father’s administration used its platform defend the brand on Twitter that month and promote it on Fox News. (”Go buy it today, everybody,” White House advisor Kellyanne Conway famously told viewers.)

But as Bookbinder pointed out, profits are now far from the only thing at play.

“There is also just a tremendous possibility for conflict of interest, where she could work on issues that effect countries where her brand does business, or effect tax issues or leave issues, anything that may effect her company and the bottom line of it in ways that she knows, and all of that is continuing to be true.”

Trump reportedly stepped down from her positions at her fashion brand and the Trump Organization in January, saying in a Facebook post that she would “no longer be involved with the management or operations” in either. She announced she was passing management of the fashion brand to current president Abigail Klem.

Trump still owns her brand, though she has placed it in a trust, a spokeswoman for the brand said Tuesday. The New York Times reports she eschewed a blind trust for one run by relatives of her husband, who is a White House senior advisor, and that she still “wields power” over the company.

So, what does Bookbinder suggest Trump do to eliminate conflicts of interest?

“She basically has two choices,” he said. One is that she cut off her business interests and “sell the business, in which case there is no issue of her profiting either based on conflict on the work she’s doing or based on who she is as a White House official and daughter of the president.”

TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images

The other, less likely option is declining a White House position altogether.

“She really can’t do both,” Bookbinder said. “She can’t continue to own and profit from her business and also be an active part of her father’s White House.”

“Just like her father should sell his businesses, she should sell hers,” he added.

Only time will tell if Trump makes a move to remove herself completely. In the meantime, prepare to see less of her face in stores and likely more of her face on television.