One of the many promises Trump uttered on the campaign trail, and has repeated since, is to “drain the swamp.” The alleged swamp draining is supposed to keep corrupt officials, career politicians, and special interests out of his administration. However, upon being elected, Trump immediately hired Republican insiders and appointed a half dozen Goldman-Sachs executives to his administration. Fast forward, and you have people resigning for charging taxpayers for private luxury jet use – and a brewing financial scandal that is about to rock the Trump administration to the core.
Elaine Chao, who is worth tens of millions, is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She’s also a member of the Trump administration: the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
In her role as the Secretary of Transportation, Chao has been a huge proponent of the Trump administration’s proposed trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. That’s good, right? America’s roads and bridges are crumbling and major infrastructure projects are desperately needed. So what’s wrong? Corruption. That’s what’s wrong.
Elaine Chao is a very wealthy individual, and has financial ties to many companies. When she was appointed to the Trump administration, in accordance with federal ethics guidelines, she divested from those companies. Mostly.
There’s one she didn’t divest from: Vulcan Materials. Chao chose to retain hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock options at the company, which is poised to profit massively from any infrastructure deal, especially with Chao negotiating from the government side.
‘Shares in the company — Vulcan Materials — climbed to a 10-year high in the days following Trump’s election and have hovered there since, reflecting investors’ optimism that the company’s business and the construction sector will benefit from a federally funded infrastructure package.
‘Since Inauguration Day, Chao and Trump have spoken publicly at least 20 times about infrastructure. Each time, the share price in Vulcan jumped in the days afterward. Vulcan, which generated $3.5 billion in revenue last year, is among the nation’s largest producers of construction aggregates — crushed stone, sand and gravel. It also produces asphalt and ready-mixed concrete.
‘Cabinet nominees and political appointees, in compliance with various laws and ethics guidelines, resign positions in the private sector and divest assets that could be affected by policy matters or legislation they’re involved in. Some will separate from all outside interests to avoid any perceived conflicts. … But with Vulcan, instead of requesting a clean break from the company, Chao opted to hold on to the stock awards through April 2018 — the soonest she can sell them — according to her financial disclosure form. In Chao’s ethics letter to the Senate confirmation committee, she cited the company’s compensation agreement with directors as the basis for her decision.
‘Despite Vulcan’s guidelines regarding director pay, ethics experts and people experienced in corporate board matters say it would have been easy for Chao to separate financially from the company upon her confirmation. Vulcan’s guidelines also allow for a director’s compensation agreements to be modified, “if it determines in its sole discretion that such action would be in the best interest of the company.”‘
In other words, the reason for Chao’s refusal to divest is simple: She doesn’t want to, and doesn’t think she should have to. She resigned her position on the board, but kept her stock options, despite selling them everywhere else. So here’s the question: Why would the Secretary of Transportation, who, if doing their job properly, will play a major role in any awarding of infrastructure contracts, refuse to divest from a major construction company?
As they say, “follow the money.” The writing’s on the wall. Elaine Chao is following the lead of Donald Trump, and attempting to use her government position for private financial benefit. Mitch McConnell, as the Senate Majority Leader and her husband, is in charge of getting enough votes for it.
This is Trump’s administration. It’s rotten from the head down – how can we reasonably expect any member of his cabinet or administration to divest and keep corruption out of our government, when he won’t? This is what you get when you appoint a “businessman” with a record of cheating anybody he works with to the highest office in the land. He’s not “draining the swamp.” He’s feeding the country to the swamp monsters.
Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images