American Oversight, on behalf of Restore Public Trust, filed suit following new report that outlines shady connections between Chao and her family’s company
WASHINGTON — Following a report that Secretary Elaine Chao used her public office to boost her family’s company, American Oversight filed suit today in federal court on behalf of Restore Public Trust (RPT), a public interest watchdog, to force the disclosure of documents related to Secretary Chao’s communication with her family’s shipping company that the group has been trying to obtain from the federal government for six months.
The suit comes after The New York Times published an article detangling the shady web of connections linking Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and her family business, the Foremost Group, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump administration policies.
“Americans deserve to know the extent to which Secretary Elaine Chao worked behind the scenes to prop up her family’s company, potentially enriching herself through them at the American taxpayers’ expense,” said Kyle Herrig, Senior Advisor to Restore Public Trust. “The federal government has been stonewalling us for months, refusing to hand over documents they are legally mandated to make public. Now we know why. Secretary Chao has been secretly promoting her family’s company in an industry she is charged with overseeing, and she is still trying to hide the truth.”
“It’s easy to forget in the Trump era, but government officials are supposed to work for the American public,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “The public has a right to know whether Secretary Chao has been using her office to further her family’s business interests at taxpayer expense.”
In December 2018, RPT submitted a public records request seeking all correspondence involving certain Department of Transportation (DOT) custodians containing search terms relating to the Foremost Group. After receiving an acknowledgment that DOT received their request, RPT has not received any further correspondence. In March 2019, RPT submitted a public records request seeking records around Secretary Chao’s travel expenses. After receiving an acknowledgement in April, RPT has received no further correspondence from DOT.
The New York Times report cited documents uncovered by an earlier American Oversight lawsuit detailing a 2017 incident in which senior aides to Secretary Chao worked with Senator Mitch McConnell’s office to arrange a VIP tour of the U.S. Capitol for a delegation of Chinese Communist Party officials who were visiting Washington from her mother’s home region.