- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2017

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics was nearly unreachable Thursday after its internet and phone systems were inundated by an abrupt traffic surge in light of what the agency simply described as “recent events.”

While OGE declined to attribute the traffic spike to any specific event, the sudden surge occurred soon after senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway touted products sold by President Trump’s daughter Ivanka during a live television appearance earlier that morning and instantly sparked discussions surrounding the potential ethics violations at hand.

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Ms. Conway said during a Thursday morning interview on Fox News. “I own some of it. I fully, I’m gonna just going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody. You can find it online.”

The OGE explained through its Twitter account afterward that its internet and phone systems were “receiving an extraordinary volume of contacts from citizens about recent events,” the likes of which had rendered the agency’s website inaccessible for several hours.

“We’re just overwhelmed with traffic right now,” an administrator of OGE’s website told Politico on Thursday. 

According to Politico, the official OGE website has been accessed roughly 5 million times during the first 40 days of the year, compared to garnering only 300,000 hits during the entirety of 2016.

Regardless of the reason for the latest surge, OGE explained on Twitter that it’s incapable of launching any ethics violations of its own aimed at the White House.

“Congress, GAO, the FBI, Inspectors General, and the Office of Special Counsel have the authority to conduct investigations,” the agency tweeted. “When OGE learns of possible ethics violations, OGE contacts the agency, provides guidance & asks them to notify OGE of any action taken. OGE is actively following this agency-contact process.”

Federal law states that “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.”

Ms. Conway was “counseled” after promoting the president’s daughter’s product line, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday. House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, separately called Ms. Conway’s comments “wrong, wrong, wrong,” “clearly over the line” and “unacceptable.”

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