Digital Gov

Ethics office website chokes under crush of visitors

Editorial credit: DFree / Shutterstock, Inc. 

Comic actor and concerned citizen Seth Rogen has been appealing to the Office of Government Ethics via Twitter. (Photo credit: DFree / Shutterstock, Inc.)

Traffic to the Office of Government Ethics website spiked as a result of complaints about White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway touting Ivanka Trump's fashions in a live TV interview.

The site didn't technically crash, an OGE spokesperson said, but it did slow to a crawl.

The slowdown came soon after Conway urged television viewers to "go out and buy" Ivanka Trump's clothing line in a live interview. Conway was reacting to news that Nordstrom department store had decided to drop the first daughter's fashions.

Volume to the small agency's web site has been extreme since the beginning of the year. While the site usually generates 300,000 page requests per year, since the beginning of January it has had five million page requests, according to a source familiar with the site.

Normally, the OGE site serves a limited pool of federal users doing background checks and checking and filing other information. The public can also access some of the data there. Like many small agencies, said the source, OGE doesn't have the budget -- or usually the need -- to set up a website that handles millions of requests per month.

The OGE isn't an enforcement agency. It doesn't take misconduct complaints, nor does it investigate or prosecute violations.

OGE isn't getting much help in explaining its mission. Quite the opposite, in fact. In the early morning hours of Feb. 10, actor Seth Rogen tweeted about OGE to his more than 5 million followers that he was "digging your super lax attitude on shit these days," and advised the government ethics shop to "keep it mellow."

 

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the panel, has been active on many fronts in trying to do oversight of the Trump Administration. But this is the first such notice from committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Chaffetz and Cummings told OGE in a Feb. 9 letter that Conway's remarks "clearly violate the ethical principles for federal employees and are unacceptable."

The two lawmakers asked OGE Director Walter Shaub to review potential ethics violations and notify the White House. However, they noted, "an additional challenge" was President Trump's position as the "ultimate disciplinary authority" at the White House as well as being Ivanka's father. That is an apparent conflict of interest.

Instead of leaving it up to the White House to decide on what discipline was necessary, the legislators said OGE should lay out a list of actions the White House could use, including a reprimand, suspension, demotion or dismissal.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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