Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin on Tuesday hinted at potential violations of ethics laws following reports that then-White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway sold her business to a firm with ties to a judicial activist at the same time she was advising President Donald Trump on Supreme Court nominees.
“This is further evidence of the troubling role that Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society played in driving Donald Trump’s judicial selection process,” Durbin (D-Ill.), who is also chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
Previously unreported financial documents reviewed by government ethics and finance experts revealed earlier Tuesday that Leo, a longtime judicial activist, appears to have helped facilitate the sale of Conway’s polling company — worth between $1 million and $5 million — via one of his dark money groups. At the time of the sale in 2017, Conway was one of Trump’s closest advisers and played a key role in advocating for Leo’s list of Supreme Court picks.
The transaction, if Leo did help finance it, could have violated federal ethics laws that prevent executive branch employees from using their positions to obtain benefits or private personal gain.
Before Durbin issued his statement, Conway did not respond to repeated emails and text messages from POLITICO requesting comment about the transaction.
Durbin in his statement took a swipe at the Trump administration’s process for nominating judges, while tipping his hat to the Biden administration for following the “advice and consent” process outlined in the Constitution — which states that the president shall seek advice from and obtain the consent of Congress before nominating someone to the federal judiciary.
“Unlike the Trump Administration, President Biden and the Senate, as part of the constitutional advice and consent process, have been driving judicial selection in this Congress,” Durbin said.
Heidi Przybyla contributed to this report.