ICYMI: Evidence of Chao’s Corruption Piling Up

Administration Accountability Feature Turns Attention Toward the Transportation Secretary  

WASHINGTON — A new Slate feature this week took aim at Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s track record of misusing her public position for self-gain. The article goes through Chao’s nightmare summer, beginning with her failure to divest her stake in Vulcan Materials as reported by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times investigation about Chao using her position to help her family’s shipping business, a Politico article exposing her unethical practices to help her husband’s state of Kentucky, and a Yahoo story about “how a separate McConnell stronghold, the town of Paducah, had benefited from Chao’s largesse.”

The article concludes that in a different time, “a comprehensive and damning investigation like the one in the Times might have led to congressional hearings, if not a resignation. But we are not living in that time anymore, and Chao’s apparent large-scale cronyism and self-serving spending seem quaint and not especially urgent next to the innovative corruption of her administration colleagues.”

“Regardless of the time we are living in, Secretary Chao’s actions are unethical and wrong,” said Lizzy Price, Director of Restore Public Trust. “Our government officials should be focused on bettering the lives of the American people, not padding their family’s bank accounts or using public resources for political gain. The corruption charges against her should be fully investigated by the Transportation Inspector General and scrutinized thoroughly through a Congressional investigation.”

The feature digs into some of the many ethics violations Restore Public Trust has worked to expose including: 

  • Failure to Divest: Despite a written commitment to immediately divest in companies that directly engage with USDOT, Chao failed to do so. Restore Public Trust asked the Inspector General to investigate.
  • Shady Family Business: Chao is accused of using her position to help her family’s shipping company profit overseas. Chao family members have thanked her by gifting millions in donations and personal gifts to help her husband’s political career. Restore Public Trust filed a lawsuit to get records from the DOT they requested months ago.
  • Husband Mitch McConnell: Research shows Chao is using her position to award millions of grant dollars to Kentucky contractors and projects, the state where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will face tough re-election for Senate in 2020. 
    • She touted her work to bring federal dollars back to Kentucky, stating she will “try not to come” to Kentucky “empty-handed,” and at her direction, DOT spent nearly $14 million on projects located in Kentucky in 2018, over an $11 million increase in funding from the final year of the Obama Administration.
    • Her office created a path through a special liaison at DOT for McConnell’s Kentucky interest projects. 
  • Paducah: She even guided major DOT projects to her home state of Kentucky in an effort to boost the political career of her husband (raising questions about Hatch Act violations) and turning the small town of Paducah into her own personal swamp. 

Research from Restore Public Trust has exposed Chao’s misallocation of public funds. The group has applauded Congress for signaling investigations into Chao and will continue to call for formal investigations until the American people restore their confidence in our government officials. 

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