In an unprecedented move, the White House announced on Saturday that it would issue ethics waivers to the general public through the beginning of July.
The waivers, which will broadly apply to morally questionable behavior, will cost $49.95 and be downloadable from www.whitehouse.gov.
Originally established to exempt government officials from conflicts of interest, ethics waivers are being offered to ordinary citizens for the first time. The waivers do not exempt their holders from possible felony prosecutions, though they may soften pentalites handed down at sentencing, depending on the court in question, according to a White House press release. However, they nullify a wide range of code violations at public and private institutions across the United States.
Democrats were quick to blast the move as a way to cultivate an ethically permissive atmosphere as the Trump Administration comes under increasing scrutiny. “I’m concerned that this could put the chill on a number of important investigations into government wrongdoing, including Special Counsel Mueller’s work,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “I’m also worried about a corrosion of civility on Main Street.”
“I hope they will not discriminate,” added House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Everybody is going to want one. Even I want one.”
White House Spokesman said the waivers were being issued to raise money for “urgent, short-term needs” by the Trump Administration.
“Consider it a little gift to the citizenry,” Spicer said.
When asked if the proceeds would pay for legal costs of private attorneys for White House staff facing possible indictment in the FBI’s Russia probe, Spicer said that the ethics waivers “speak for themselves.”
Several watchdog groups warned that the ethics waivers could lead to a spike in real crime. “Expect an immediate redefinition of what is socially acceptible,” said Susan Tremblay, president of Citizens for Ethical Responsibility. “Cheating on tests, people taking newspapers from their neighbors’ lawns, that sort of thing. But research shows that these behaviors are gateways, and they point in the wrong direction.”
Outside a Panera restaurant in Chagrin Falls, OH, Jeffrey Carollo and two friends were reading the news from the White House on their cell phones, “Am I getting one, are you kidding me?” asked Carollo, 34. “I’m getting two.”
“I might make mine into a t-shirt, so everybody can see it,” said his friend, Steve Hackman, 57.
“I’m not saying I want to get a waiver so I can go out and do terrible things, Carollo added. “But having one is going to make me feel better about a lot of things I’m already doing.”
The waiver program, under the official title Ethics Waivers: Government Rollback of Statutory Sanctions (EW:GROSS), begins Monday, June 19, and will continue through the Independence Day holiday.