×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s ‘Lego Batman’ Mention Raises Ethics Concerns

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may have been making a flippant comment about one of the movies he produced, but it has ethics watchdogs wondering if the Trump administration official violated federal rules prohibiting the promotion of products.

It stems from a Friday morning event sponsored by Axios, when Mnuchin, who had a career as a major financier of movies before being named Trump’s treasury secretary, was asked about his Hollywood output.

“Well, I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure that you’ve asked me the question and I am not promoting any product,” Mnuchin said. “But you should send all your kids to ‘Lego Batman.'”

Mnuchin is one of the executive producers on the movie, which was financed by his RatPac-Dune Entertainment.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released a statement in which it said that “it’s clear that Mnuchin did not learn any lessons from the Kellyanne Conway affair. This kind of thing happened, and will continue to happen, when there is a White House that does not take disciplinary action for ethical lapses.”

Another organization, American Oversight, is calling for an investigation. It asked that the Treasury Department’s ethics official look into whether Mnuchin’s remarks violated federal law. The group also asked that the Office of Government Ethics monitor the Treasury Department’s probe.

But a spokesman for the Department of the Treasury said that “as his statement reflects, the Secretary clearly recognized that he generally may not promote private interests and specifically gave the legal disclosure that he was not promoting a movie, but answering a question he was asked directly.”

Conway, an adviser to Trump, was found to have violated ethics rules by the Office of Government Ethics for an appearance on “Fox & Friends” in which she urged viewers to buy Ivanka Trump’s product line. Her comments were in response to Nordstrom deciding to drop Trump’s line, citing poor sales.

Federal law bans federal employees from using their public office for private gain, and from using their title to endorse and “product, service or enterprise.”

As he was going through the confirmation process, Mnuchin said that he would divest his holdings in RatPac-Dune within 120 days of confirmation.

Richard Painter, professor at the University of Minnesota and chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said that it didn’t matter that Mnuchin prefaced what he said by citing federal guidelines. “He stated the ethics rule (the same one Kellyanne Conway violated) and then immediately violated it,” Painter said.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Felicity Huffman

    Felicity Huffman Issues Apology After Receiving Prison Sentence: 'There Are No Excuses'

    Felicity Huffman issued a long statement of apology on Friday after receiving a two-week prison sentence for paying to illegally boost her daughter’s SAT score. In the statement, Huffman, in addition to saying  she accepts the court’s decision, acknowledges and apologizes to other parents fighting to get their children into college. Along with the prison [...]

  • Actress Felicity Huffman (C-L) and her

    Felicity Huffman Sentenced to 14 Days in Prison in SAT Cheating Case

    Felicity Huffman was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison for the crime of paying $15,000 to boost her daughter’s SAT score. Judge Indira Talwani also ordered her to serve 250 hours of community service and a year of probation, and pay a $30,000 fine. The sentence came as a surprise, as Talwani had [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER

    Rihanna Sings (Briefly), Pharrell and DJ Khaled Rock the Mic at Star-Studded Diamond Ball

    In just five years, Rihanna’s Diamond Ball has become one of the music industry’s biggest events of its kind, nearly on the level of the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala. While there are several dazzling charity events with equal starpower and often-unique performances, what makes the Diamond Ball different is, obviously enough, Rihanna’s supernova aura and [...]

  • Amber Heard Seeks Info on Johnny

    Amber Heard Seeks Info on Johnny Depp's Arrests and Substance Abuse

    Amber Heard is asking Johnny Depp to turn over records related to his arrests and drug treatment, as her lawyers defend her from a $50 million defamation suit. Depp filed suit in March, accusing his ex-wife of tanking his career by writing a Washington Post op/ed alluding to her domestic violence allegations against him. Heard [...]

  • David Nevins, Chief Creative Officer, CBS

    David Nevins: CBS-Viacom Merger to Create 'Virtuous Eco-System' for Content

    CBS and Viacom leaders are looking for opportunities to create a “virtuous eco-system” for content that can prosper across the various platforms of the two companies that are set to merge by year’s end. That was the sentiment shared by David Nevins, chief creative officer of CBS and chairman-CEO of Showtime Networks, during a Q&A [...]

  • 'Resident Evil' Stuntwoman Files Suit Over

    'Resident Evil' Stuntwoman Files Suit Over Horrific Motorcycle Crash

    A stuntwoman who suffered severe injuries on the set of “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” in 2015 has filed a lawsuit alleging that the film’s producers reneged on a promise to cover her medical costs. Olivia Jackson was driving a motorcycle that collided head-on with a camera rig during the shoot in South Africa. According [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content