Liberal groups focus on Ivanka Trump

Catherine Lucey
Associated Press

Washington — Getting nowhere with her father, liberal advocacy groups have been looking for an ally in Ivanka Trump. They haven’t had much luck.

In recent weeks, activists have been appealing to the younger Trump for help on climate change, international labor conditions and immigration. But the first daughter, an influential adviser to President Donald Trump in her own right, largely has sought to stay out of the fray. Still the efforts underscore the politically charged position she occupies as she seeks to advance a positive agenda while avoiding weighing in publicly on her father’s more controversial policies.

The most high-profile campaign directed at the president’s daughter has come from New York-based China Labor Watch, which has been investigating working conditions at factories in China that have made Ivanka Trump products. The group on Thursday renewed a call for her to speak out about the detention of activists involved in the investigation and on their findings about labor conditions. They said they have sent a second letter to her at the White House to raise concerns.

Ivanka Trump’s brand has sought to distance itself from the manufacturer under scrutiny, saying the company last made its products three months ago.

Trump, who spent the past week promoting the administration’s efforts on job training, did not respond to requests for comment.

With her focus on issues that typically draw liberal or bipartisan support, Ivanka Trump has left many with an impression that she does not share some of her father’s policies. But she avoided weighing in publicly on her father’s travel ban, border wall, proposed budget cuts or the Paris agreement, leading liberal critics to question her influence.

Now some groups are trying to spur her to act.

Before the president announced he would exit the Paris climate accord, the Natural Resources Defense Council started an online petition asking people to email and call Ivanka Trump to push her father to stay in the deal. The call for action implored people to “raise a massive outcry” and ask her to “do everything in her power to persuade the president to keep our promise.”

“As we began hearing he was leaning in the direction of pulling out, we threw a Hail Mary,” said Ben Smith, the group’s digital advocacy director, adding that they sought to “appeal to what seems to be a well-reported story that she’s sympathetic.”

Smith said 50,000 people signed the petition, “which is on the higher end of the performance scale for us.”

Last week, Amnesty International launched a campaign that seeks to educate Ivanka Trump on their efforts to shut down a residential center in Pennsylvania that houses detained immigrant parents and children. The advocates say the facility, which has a contract with the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a detention center.

“She says she cares about women and kids and child care. She says she wants to use this power she now has. We’re following up on that,” said Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns for the U.S. section of Amnesty International.

Shah added: “It’s not a shaming campaign. She says she wants to do it.”

“Democrats do not have many lines into the White House, they don’t have a lot of different ways to influence the president,” said Democratic strategist Lis Smith. “His daughter remains one of the few ways they are able to get to him.”

In interviews, Ivanka Trump has stressed that this is her father’s administration and has said she airs her views with her father privately. During a recent interview on “Fox and Friends,” she expressed surprise about the “level of viciousness” that the administration had encountered in Washington, a statement that some found curious given her father’s aggressive rhetoric.

Saying her father’s administration wants to do “big things,” she added: “I was not expecting the intensity of this experience, but this isn’t supposed to be easy.”

She moved her family to Washington before her father’s inauguration. She serves as an unpaid aide to the president and stepped away from executive roles running her brand and at the Trump Organization, though she retains ownership of the brand. She has been more visible lately, working on a plan for paid family leave that is included in the president’s budget, taking part in the president’s first foreign trip and appearing with her father to talk about job training.

Republican consultant Alex Conant, who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid, said the advocacy campaigns were unlikely to make a great impact on the first daughter. “As long as she has a thick skin, those campaigns will be unsuccessful and she’ll remain effective,” he said.