ICYMI: Sec. Chao Using Her Position to Give $78 Million in Grants for Husband Mitch McConnell’s Favored Projects

Chao’s “special liaison” to help with Kentucky helps her never come home “empty-handed”

WASHINGTON —Today, POLITICO revealed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao paved the way for at least $78 million in grants for Kentucky, where her husband, US Senator Mitch McConnell is expected to face another tough re-election campaign. It’s no surprise considering Chao’s own telling words: “I try not to come home empty-handed.”  

“Once again, Secretary Chao breached ethical practices by asking her top aide to assist with her husband’s priorities,” said Lizzy Price, spokesperson for Restore Public Trust. “Chao has openly stated she tries not to come home ‘empty-handed’ and she has delivered on that promise – for both herself and her husband. Congress should immediately launch an investigation into Chao – she should have to tell the American public if she is misdirecting taxpayer money for political gain.”

The POLITICO story comes on the heels of a scathing New York Times article last week exposing Chao for using her office to benefit her family’s fortune. The article revealed that in turn, her family gifted millions in donations and personal gifts to her and her husband.

Chao came under scrutiny previously for awarding numerous grants to her home state. Chao went so far as to spend at least $1.3 million on maritime infrastructure in land-locked Kentucky, and open a new Maritime Inland Waterways Gateway Office in Paducah, a small town of only 25,000 people.

Previously, POLITICO revealed that Chao claimed nearly 300 hours of private time on her official schedule, the equivalent of seven weeks’ vacation, during her first 14 months as Transportation Secretary. A report from Restore Public Trust also found:

  • The value of contracts going to Kentucky contractors jumped more than 421 percent during Chao’s first year as Secretary of Transportation compared with the year before Chao took over.
  • By 2018, the value of contracts paid to Kentucky based contractors had jumped 12 times, a 1,262 percent increase compared to the final year before Chao took over.
  • In 2018, the Department of Transportation spent nearly $14 million on projects located in Kentucky. This is an over $11 million increase from the final year of the Obama Administration, and more than $3 million more than any other point in the last decade.
  • The number of Kentucky based contractors jumped more than 185 percent during her first year as Secretary of Transportation compared with the prior year.
  • By 2018, the number of Kentucky based contractors more than doubled compared with the year before Chao took over.
  • The number of contracts performed in Kentucky jumped 220-percent from 2016 to 2017, and 353-percent from 2016 to 2018.



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