In a speech March 24, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joked that the audience should see "The Lego Batman Movie." But Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., now wants the Office of Government Ethics to investigate Mnuchin for possible ethics violations, since the movie is produced by his company, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment.
"The American people deserve to know whether Secretary Mnuchin violated his promise to sever financial ties with Hollywood or if he's instead using the government to increase his own bottom line," Wyden stated in a March 27 release regarding his letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub.
Wyden's letter concerns comments Mnuchin made at the end of a live interview hosted by Axios. Asked about a movie he recommended for the audience, Mnuchin said "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 then paused before saying "but you should send all your kids to 'Lego Batman.'"
In his ethics filings, Mnuchin promised to divest his interests in Ratpac-Dune Entertainment within 120 days of his confirmation. Mnuchin was confirmed Feb. 13.
"With regard to these interests, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that to my knowledge has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity until I have divested it," Mnuchin's ethics agreement reads.
Wyden says that he assumes Mnuchin still holds his interest in Ratpac-Dune and expressed his concern that Mnuchin may be using his government position to endorse a product, which would violate OGE regulations. Wyden further asserted that Mnuchin's comments may be interpreted as an "explicit endorsement" of films produced by Ratpac-Dune.
"You have the authority to review potential ethics violations and notify the employee's agency of any potential violation," Wyden wrote to OGE's Shaub. "I request that you review Sec. Mnuchin's comments and report any findings to me and the Treasury Department."