MFIA Clinic Convenes Panel To Discuss Conflicts of Interest In New Administration


On January 10, 2017, approximately 40 journalists and media lawyers attended a free-form discussion with legal experts on the federal conflict of interest laws and the incoming Trump Administration. The luncheon was organized by the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic (MFIA) to educate journalists and newsroom lawyers about the key ethics issues likely to be faced by the incoming administration.

The two-hour discussion covered a wide range of ethics issues, from the emoluments clause to insider trading to anti-nepotism laws and the historic standards applied to executive branch officials by the Office of Government Ethics. The journalists present had an opportunity to interrogate the experts about how the laws apply, how to differentiate between the important and the trivial conflict issues, and where to find information that will bear on the existence of conflicts. Each attendee also received a flash drive containing the relevant federal laws and regulations, source material concerning Mr. Trump’s financial disclosures, and a memo summarizing potential conflicts of interests issues and the relevant law. 

MFIA brought in four experts in federal ethics’ laws to lead the discussion, including two Yale Law School alums. Panelists included Kathleen Clark ’90, Professor of Law at Washington University, St. Louis and former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee; Richard Painter ’87, Professor of Law at University of Minnesota Law School and chief ethics counsel to President Bush, 2005-2007; Norman Eisen, Fellow at the Brookings Institute and chief ethics counsel to President Obama, 2009-2011; and Steven Schooner, Professor of Law at George Washington University and a former associate administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. 

The experts convened in Washington, D.C., in the offices of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP, and the discussion was live streamed to additional attendees in New York City and New Haven, Connecticut. 

David Schulz ’78, a Senior Research Scholar in Law and the Floyd Abrams Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, hosted the discussion on behalf of Yale’s Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic.