Five Times We Held Elaine Chao Accountable

Restore Public Trust spent 2019 responding to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s smorgasbord of corrupt actions

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s tenure in the Trump administration has been rife with corruption, even making her the focus of a House Oversight investigation into her potential conflicts of interest, and Restore Public Trust has held her accountable every step of the way.

Here are five of Chao’s most egregious ethical transgressions:

5. Stalling the Gateway project: Without explanation, Elaine Chao has stalled progress on the Gateway tunnel, a crucial piece of more than 100-year-old infrastructure running up the Eastern Seaboard from Boston to Washington, D.C. Restore Public Trust launched a campaign demanding that Chao stop hindering construction on Gateway and prevent the estimated loss of $16 billion in the regional economy that will accompany her department’s failure to move on the project.

4. Propping Up Her Family’s Company: Following the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) failure to hand over documents containing Chao’s communications with her family’s shipping company, the Foremost Group, Restore Public Trust sued the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the records, which the agency is legally mandated to make public. Ample evidence suggests Chao is using her power as transportation secretary to help bolster the company’s bottom line, potentially enriching herself and her family at the American taxpayer’s expense.

3. Meeting with McConnell’s Super PAC President: Chao held a series of meetings with Steven Law, the CEO and president of a super PAC associated with her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leading up to 2017’s Alabama Senate Special Election. McConnell was legally barred from meeting with Law during this period. In response, American Oversight filed a lawsuit on behalf of Restore Public Trust for records related to Chao and Law’s meetings to obtain details about the meetings Chao took with Law while she was supposed to be serving the American public.

2. Refusing to Divest Financial Assets: Restore Public Trust requested that the DOT inspector general investigate Chao for conflicts of interest. The complaint centered on Chao’s failure to divest from paving-materials company Vulcan Materials Co. when she was appointed to the role of transportation secretary in 2017.

1. Playing Favorites to Benefit Kentucky… and Her Husband: Chao has spent her tenure at DOT pouring money into Kentucky, the state where her husband Mitch McConnell faces a tough reelection fight next year. Restore Public Trust has raised the alarm early on Chao’s Kentucky favoritism, resulting in multiple investigations by the media. Last month, House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio called for a probe by the transportation department inspector general of any potential favoritism Chao has shown Kentucky since taking the helm at the agency.


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