WASHINGTON – Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has faced enhanced scrutiny in recent weeks over her dubious actions while leading the agency. While the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plans to investigate Chao for her failure to divest from Vulcan Materials and her shady dealings with her family’s shipping business, Restore Public Trust has recently called on the Committee to expand their investigation.
“We know that Chao has failed government ethics on many levels, but her failure to divest from Vulcan Materials might be the most clear-cut violation, which is why we called for an investigation months ago” said Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust. “Despite Chao’s pledge to Congress and the American people that she would divest from Vulcan Materials, she failed to do so. The clear conflicts of interest between the work of the transportation department and the work of Vulcan Materials are disturbing and we hope they will be fully investigated.”
In an effort to explain what we know about Chao’s many ethical failures, here is a breakdown of Secretary Chao’s failure to divest from Vulcan Materials and the clear conflicts of interest.
January 2017: Chao signed an ethics agreement before her confirmation claiming that “she would receive a cash payout in April 2018 in exchange for the deferred share units she earned while serving on the board, effectively severing her financial ties to the company.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/28/19]
2017: Vulcan Materials spent $390,000 lobbying the Department of Transportation. [Construction Dive, 5/29/19]
2018: Vulcan Materials spent $510,000 lobbying the Department of Transportation. [Construction Dive, 5/29/19]
April 2018: The month that Secretary Chao claimed she’d be divested of Vulcan stock. [Wall Street Journal, 5/28/19]
January – March 2019: Vulcan Materials spend $120,000 lobbying the Department of Transportation. [Construction Dive, 5/29/19]
May 2019: Shares of Vulcan Materials rose nearly 13% between April 2018 and May 2019, “netting [Chao] a more than $40,000 gain, corporate and government filings show.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/28/19]
May 28, 2019: Wall Street Journal article breaks news that Chao failed to divest holdings in Vulcan Materials. [Wall Street Journal, 5/28/19]
June 2019: Elaine Chao Sold Her Stock In Vulcan Materials After Having Failed To Previously Do So. [New York Times, 6/13/19]
June 17, 2019: Restore Public Trust called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to open an investigation into Secretary Elaine Chao for having likely violated financial conflict-of-interest restrictions under federal law. [Restore Public Trust, 6/17/2019]
September 16, 2019: House Oversight Committee announced investigation of Chao for ethics allegations including her failing to divest Vulcan stock. [House Oversight Committee, 9/16/2019]