Donald Trump has a week to plug brands like L.L.Bean before breaking a federal ethics rule
President-elect Donald Trump made waves Thursday after tweeting a message supportive of outdoor apparel and gear maker L.L.Bean.
He wrote: "Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean."
In short order, #BoycottLLBean began trending on Twitter — an effect that some speculate actually might be what Trump wanted all along.
That might be because of a Jan. 8 Facebook post by L.L.Bean's executive chairman that distanced the company from Bean's statements, calling her "only one of 50+ family members involved with the business."
Because L.L.Bean is a private company — meaning it is not publicly traded, like Boeing — it was not as immediately clear whether Trump's tweet will help or hurt the business financially.
Previously, the president-elect's tweets have caused the stocks he discusses to experience rapid price swings — and that has been so disruptive that it spurred the creation of a new phone app feature that alerts investors as soon as Trump tweets about a company.
While Trump is not prohibited from tweeting about companies as president-elect, his tweets — and his endorsements in particular — might run afoul of federal ethics rules if he continues his behavior after he is sworn in on Jan. 20.
There exists a U.S. Office of Government Ethics prohibition against executive branch employees using their office to plug "an organization (including a nonprofit organization), product, service, or person."
Though the president may have technically been exempt from the rule, President Barack Obama established a White House policy to include presidents, Politico reports: Then again, it is always possible that Don McGahn, Trump's incoming White House counsel, could alter the rule once the new administration moves in.
That's a bad idea, former White House ethics lawyer Norm Eisen told Politico: "The concept that we are a government of laws, not men, does not mean doing the bare minimum and looking for loopholes — it means living up to the spirit of the law."
The Trump transition team did not reply to a request for comment.