| WASHINGTON, March 27
WASHINGTON, March 27 The top Democrat on the
Senate Finance Committee asked the government ethics watchdog on
Monday to review comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
plugging "The Lego Batman Movie," a film one of his companies
produced, for a possible ethics violation.
In a letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter
Shaub, Senator Ron Wyden said he was concerned that Mnuchin had
violated his ethics agreement signed in January in his comments
on Friday at the end of a live interview with the Axios news
Mnuchin had agreed to divest his interests in Ratpac-Dune
Entertainment Holdings LLC within 120 days of his confirmation,
and "not participate personally and substantially in any matter
that has a direct and predictable effect on the financial
interests of the entity" unless first obtaining a waiver.
RatPac-Dune, co-founded by Mnuchin with producer-director
Brett Rattner and media billionaire James Packer, has produced
and financed a number of Hollywood hits in recent years,
including "Avatar," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Lego Batman
At the Axios event, Mnuchin was asked in a question from a
reader for a movie recommendation.
"I'm not allowed to promote anything that I'm involved in.
So I just want to have the legal disclosure, 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.'"
The comment drew laughter from the audience at the
Wyden said the Finance Committee had received no
notifications regarding Mnuchin's holdings in RatPac-Dune and
assumed the Treasury chief still held that interest.
"I am concerned that Sec. Mnuchin’s comments, may be seen to
have a predictable effect on the financial interests" of
RatPac-Dune, Wyden said in his letter.
In a statement, a Treasury spokesman said: "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."
The OGE recommended last month that the White House should
consider disciplinary action against President Donald Trump's
adviser Kellyanne Conway for her on-air comment on Fox News
Channel promoting the clothing and jewelry line of Trump's
daughter Ivanka Trump. Conway said people "should go buy
The White House later told the ethics watchdog that Conway
had acted "inadvertently" and without "nefarious motive or
intent to benefit personally."
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Peter Cooney)