May 17, 2017

Senators Ask Office of Government Ethics to Review Bannon's Compliance with Federal Ethics Regulations

Repeated Interactions Between Bannon and Breitbart Continue to Raise Concerns

Full text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), today wrote to the Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), requesting information about the ethics rules that Stephen Bannon, President Trump's Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor, is required to follow with regards to communications with his former employer, Breitbart News Network.

Under federal ethics regulations and President Trump's ethics executive order, Mr. Bannon is prohibited from communicating with his former employer to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. However, Mr. Bannon has publicly admitted to communicating with Breitbart since assuming his White House role, raising concerns about his continued interactions with his previous employer. "It appears," wrote the senators, "that Mr. Bannon's communications with Breitbart are in violation of the Ethics Pledge."

Outlined in Executive Order 13770, the pledge bars administration appointees from participating in matters related to their former employers. Additional OGE regulations also require executive branch employees to "avoid an appearance of loss of impartiality in the performance of...official duties," which Mr. Bannon flouted by reportedly providing preferential access to his former employer.

The senators ask OGE to provide a comprehensive overview of "relevant laws, precedents, executive orders, and legal opinions regarding Mr. Bannon's role as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President and his relationship and communications with Breitbart News," and whether his actions were consistent with those standards. The letter follows a previous inquiry sent last month by the senators to Mr. Bannon, asking him directly address concerns about his compliance with ethics regulation. Mr. Bannon has yet to respond.