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Is Trump Endorsing Goya Illegal?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 16: In this photo illustration, cans of Goya beans are displayed on July 16, 2020 in New York City. Donald and Ivanka Trump shared images of themselves holding Goya Foods products after the head of Goya expressed his support for President Trump. Activists and consumers have called for a boycott of Goya, a company with a large Hispanic client base, following the news of the CEO’s support for Trump. (Photo illustration  by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
By Ashley Ravid on July 17, 2020

Is Trump Endorsing Goya Illegal?

Following Goya Foods CEO's recent announcement of his support for President Trump, the president and his daughter Ivanka appeared to return the favor, as each posted photos of themselves posing with Goya products.

The plugs for the brand generated an intense amount of backlash on social media, with many arguing that the move was not just in bad taste, but possibly illegal. Is this a violation of federal ethics laws?

To Bean or Not To Bean

Calls for a Goya boycott followed CEO Robert Unanue's pubic commendation of the president. Goya, a Hispanic-owned brand, was criticized for its support of Trump given his administration's anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized Unanue's decision to support Trump, while the president's supporters rallied to support Goya.

Eventually, Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself with a can of Goya beans and quoted the company's slogan in both English and Spanish. President Trump also posted a photo of himself surrounded by Goya products and also tweeted that, "Goya Foods is doing GREAT. The Radical Left smear machine backfired, people are buying like crazy!"

These posts quickly gained attention for possible violations of federal ethics standards, with former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Schaub stating that "[Ivanka's] Goya Tweet was an ethics violation."

In Hot Water on Twitter

Though the president is harder to bring a case against because of the immunity awarded by his position, many are arguing that Ivanka, a federal government employee, violated a federal ethics law that states that federal employees "shall not use [their] public office for [their] own private gain, or the endorsement of any product."

The Office of Government Ethics also states that "Executive branch employees may not use their government positions to suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses an organization (including a nonprofit organization), product, service, or person."

Several critics and ethics organizations have now taken issue in particular with Ivanka's public endorsement of Goya, seeing it as an illegal quid pro quo exchange, where the Trump administration supports Goya Foods and vice versa. The White House has refuted any claims of wrongdoing.

Whether an investigation occurs or any disciplinary action is taken against Ivanka or her father remains to be seen, though there is a possibility that action may be taken against the younger Trump in particular. Both of the Trumps have notably used personal social media accounts for public policy announcements and activities, meaning that it will be more difficult for them to defend against ethics violations by claiming that their love of Goya is personal rather than political.

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