Department of Transportation has refused to comply with federal open records law
WASHINGTON – American Oversight filed suit in federal court today on behalf of Restore Public Trust, a public interest watchdog, to comply with federal law and force the disclosure of documents that detail Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s meetings and calls with Steven Law, the CEO and president of a super PAC associated with Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Law met with Chao and high-level staff around key dates leading up to the Alabama Senate Special Election in 2017, a time when McConnell was barred from meeting with the head of the PAC.
“Americans deserve to know the details of the meetings Secretary Elaine Chao took with a blatantly political figure while she was supposed to be serving the American public,” said Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust. “The federal government has been stonewalling us for months, refusing to hand over documents it is legally mandated to make public. We know that Chao has used her office to help her husband politically. The American people deserve to know if this is yet another example of unethical and improper behavior by Chao.”
“Secretary Chao and Senator McConnell personify how the DC swamp is anything but drained,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Their history of blurring the lines between their official roles and partisan interests shows how important it is to understand whether Secretary Chao, while acting in her official capacity, served as a conduit for Senator McConnell to drive a political agenda and, potentially, avoid campaign finance laws.”
Restore Public Trust filed several FOIA requests for the Department of Transportation to turn over Chao’s official documents relating to meetings with Steven Law — requests that have gone unanswered. The meetings the lawsuit seeks to clarify include:
- Chao had a call with Steven Law the day after Judge Roy Moore resigned from the Alabama Supreme Court to run for the Senate seat up in the state’s special election.
- Chao had a meeting with Steven Law in her office the day before Doug Jones, the Democrat who went on to win the seat, announced his candidacy in the special election. Chao had been at the White House immediately prior to that meeting.
- Chao, Deputy Jeffrey Rosen, and Chief of Staff Geoff Burr met with Steven Law the day after a Politico article profiled McConnell and Senate Leadership Fund’s efforts to influence the Republican Primary in the Alabama Senate special election.
- Chao met with Steven Law three days after the primary election for the Alabama Senate special election, where Roy Moore and Luther Strange advanced to a runoff. This was also three days after President Trump’s infamous Charlottesville comments, which he made standing next to Chao.
- Jeffrey Rosen met with Steven Law the day that Alabama announced the dates of the Special Senate Election. Chao did not attend, but her schedule shows she had a conflict.
- Jeffrey Rosen met with Steven Law the day the most damning accusation of sexual assault came out against then-GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. The article outlining the accusations noted that Republicans were looking at ways to avoid seating Moore if he were elected. Chao did not attend the meeting, but her schedule shows she had a conflict.
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