BREAKING: More News That Chao Favors Kentucky, A Quarter of Her Meetings Were Held With Kentuckians

WASHINGTON See below for Restore Public Trust’s response to Politico’s report that a quarter of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s meetings were held with Kentuckians, who make up only 1.3% of the U.S. population:

Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust: “The stories detailing the depth of Secretary Elaine Chao’s improper use of her position to boost her husband Mitch McConnell’s political career are alarming and exhibit a clear misuse of taxpayer resources. The evidence of corruption just keeps coming. Chao’s office tried to claim that her actions constitute normal behavior, but while it may be normal in Trump’s administration, it’s not fitting for a public official. Chao’s ethical lapses have gone unchecked for too long. It’s time for House Oversight to expand its investigation to encompass her department’s unethical favoritism towards Kentucky in order to help her husband’s political career.”

Politico: Elaine Chao Favored Kentuckians In Meeting With Officials Seeking Grants 

From January 2017 Until March 2018, 25% Of Chao’s Meetings With Local Officials Were With Kentucky; Indiana And Georgia Came In Second With 6%. “In her first 14 months as Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao met with officials from Kentucky, which her husband Mitch McConnell represents in the Senate, vastly more often than those from any other state. In all, 25 percent of Chao’s scheduled meetings with local officials of any state from January 2017 to March 2018 were with Kentuckians, who make up only about 1.3 percent of the U.S. population. The next closest were Indiana and Georgia, with 6 percent of meetings each, according to Chao’s calendar records, the only ones that have been made public.” [Politico, 10/7/19]

Five Of Chao’s Meetings With Local Kentuckians Came From Requests From McConnell Staffers, Who Alerted Chao Staffers Which Meetings Were “Friends” Or “Loyal Supporters.” “In her first 14 months as Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao met with officials from Kentucky, which her husband Mitch McConnell represents in the Senate, vastly more often than those from any other state. […] At least five of Chao’s 18 meetings with local Kentuckians were requested in emails from McConnell staffers, who alerted Chao’s staffers which of the officials were ‘friends’ or ‘loyal supporters,’ according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The emails from McConnell’s office to Chao’s staff sometimes included details about projects that participants wanted to discuss with the secretary, or to ask her for special favors. Some of the officials who met with Chao had active grant applications before the Department of Transportation through competitive programs and the emails indicate that the meetings sometimes involved the exchange of information about grants and opportunities for the officials to plead their case directly before Chao.”  [Politico, 10/7/19]

The DOT Responded That The Secretary’s Office Had An Open-Door Policy And Regularly Meets With State And Local Officials. “Chao and other Transportation officials declined through the department’s media office to be interviewed. In an emailed statement, a DOT spokesperson said, ‘The Office of the Secretary has an open-door policy, and welcomes meetings from all state and local officials across the country. Any suggestion to the contrary is not based in fact.’ The spokesperson added that ‘in the past week alone, the Department met with 28 state, local, and tribal delegations’ but, when asked, declined to say how many of those meetings, if any, the secretary herself had sat in on.” [Politico, 10/7/19]

A DOT Spokesman Defended Chao’s Meetings With Kentucky Officials, Saying She Had Traveled To 31 States And That It Was Natural For Her To Meet With Individuals With Home State Ties. “A DOT spokesman said Chao has traveled to 31 states during the two-and-a-half years she’s been in office and meets with state and local officials on most of those trips. The DOT spokesman also defended Chao’s meetings with officials from Kentucky, saying it’s natural for her to meet with them ‘given her home-state ties — she’s a proud Kentuckian.'” [Politico, 10/7/19]

Todd Inman Sat In For Nearly 90-Percent Of Meeting With Kentucky Officials But Fewer Than Half Of Meetings With Officials From Other States, And Followed Up With Participants Through Phone And Email. “According to Chao’s official calendar logs, Inman was listed as an attendee for nearly 90 percent of her meetings with Kentucky state and local officials, but fewer than half of her meetings with officials from other states. A Department of Transportation spokesperson said that the attendee lists do not necessarily reflect who actually attended a particular meeting, and that many staffers are added to calendar events simply for awareness. However, public records obtained by POLITICO show that Inman followed up with meeting participants via phone and email, offering extra information and useful favors from his position in the department.” [Politico, 10/7/19]

McConnell Responded To Comment On A Politico Story By Saying He Was “Proud To Support Many Of These” Grant Applications, And Saying Kentuckians Should Contact His Office If They’re Applying For Competitive Grants. “When asked for comment for this story, McConnell said in an email, “Communities throughout Kentucky were awarded competitive federal grants, bringing critical resources to projects in our state. I was proud to support many of these applications. If you are interested in applying for competitive federal grants, I hope you will contact my office.” His office also sent a rundown of other federal grants McConnell helped secure, including $743,000 for drone technology and $11 million for the Blue Grass Airport near Lexington.” [Politico, 10/7/19]

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Press Release

Elaine ChaoMitch McConnellPress Release

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