UNCOVERED: New Evidence From Government Accountability Group Restore Public Trust Shows Sec. Elaine Chao Used Position to Favor Kentucky as McConnell Prepares for Tough Re-Election

New Report from RPT Shows Transportation Department increased spending in Kentucky by more than $11 million under Chao — more than 400-percent increase from the final year of the Obama Administration

WASHINGTON — A new report from government accountability group Restore Public Trust released today paints a clear picture of how Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is using her position to award millions of grant dollars to Kentucky contractors and projects, the state where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will face a tough re-election for Senate in 2020. Under her leadership, Chao has gone 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. The Paducah office is one of just a handful of Maritime gateway offices in the nation and is located a mere 200 miles from MARAD’s only other inland waterway office in St. Louis.

“Secretary Chao said it herself: she tries never to come home empty-handed. Numbers don’t lie. As Leader McConnell prepares for a tough reelection fight, Secretary Chao is sending supposedly competitive grant funding to Kentucky at a jaw-dropping pace,” said Caroline Ciccone, Executive Director for Restore Public Trust. “It can’t be a coincidence. The facts are clear, and Secretary Chao should have to answer if she misdirected taxpayer money for political gain. Congress should immediately launch an investigation into this important matter. Trump said he’d drain the swamp, but this is as swampy as it gets.”

The new report from Restore Public Trust shows:

  • 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 twelve 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 from 2016 to 2018, 353-percent.

Press Release

Elaine ChaoPress Release

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