A government watchdog organisation says Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a White House adviser, likely violated federal ethics rules when she posed with a can of Goya beans after the company's CEO backed her father.
The picture was posted to Ms Trump's Instagram and Twitter accounts late Tuesday night, a few hours after Donald Trump turned the Rose Garden into a campaign rally venue to hammer former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Ms Trump is pictured hold the can of Goya black beans and smiling widely. The caption read: "If it's Goya, it's good. Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno."
If it’s Goya, it has to be good.
Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno. pic.twitter.com/9tjVrfmo9z— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump)July 15, 2020
Appearing to try giving his daughter some political cover, the president later Wednesday posted his own picture -- this one behind the Oval Office's Resolute Desk -- with several Goya products while giving two thumbs up and also smiling widely.
Former White House officials who worked in other administrations quickly fired off tweets suggesting she had violated ethics rules. Walter Shaub, who oversaw the ethics office inside the Obama White House expanded his Twitter thoughts with a Washington Post op-ed that published Thursday morning.
"Ivanka Trump's posts violated an executive branch ethics regulation prohibiting employees from misusing their official positions to endorse commercial products," Mr Shaub wrote. "As a pictorial representation of the Trump administration's war on government ethics, both photos are perfectly clear. They scream 'the rules don't apply to us,' a central message of the Trump administration from the start.
That followed a top Washington government watchdog group weighing in.
"You can't use your official position to promote a private business," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Bloomberg. "I think in a commonsense way this is an obvious violation."
The problem is, according to Mr Bookbinder, the image and message is "a direct political response to help Goya, which helps the administration."
The subheadline on Mr Shaub's Post piece succinctly summarised critics' collective stance: "Don't think for a second that this was just about a can of beans".
The White House, as Trump officials have with ethics matters since taking office, brushed aside the criticisms.
"Only the media and the cancel culture movement would criticise Ivanka for showing her personal support for a company that has been unfairly mocked, boycotted and ridiculed for supporting this administration," White House spokeswoman Carolina Hurley said in a statement Wednesday morning. "Ivanka is proud of this strong, Hispanic-owned business with deep roots in the U.S. and has every right to express her personal support."
Mr Trump and his inner circle, which includes his oldest daughter, rarely make any moves without thinking about the potential political benefits.
To that end, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found 38 per cent of Hispanic voters support Mr Trump. That is a 10-point jump from exit poll results from the 2016 election.
The group could help Mr Trump make up ground in some key swing states on Mr Biden, whom the same survey found leads by 15 points nationally. RealClearPolitics puts Mr Biden's lead in three key battleground states Mr Trump won last time over 6 percentage points each, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
GOP strategists say without Florida, Mr Trump has no path to a second term.
"If you hit the right message in Florida," one Republican strategist said this week, "you're going to hit the right notes in North Carolina and Georgia and probably places like Texas and Arizona."
"So if President Trump sees Florida drop off the map on Election Night," the strategist said, "it's game over."