Ethics Investigation Of Elaine Chao Announced By Government Watchdog


Her husband has drawn the spotlight toward him for refusing to give President Barack Obama his Supreme Court pick. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) built an aluminum processing plant financed by a Russian oligarch in his backyard and killed legislation from reaching the Senate floor for four years. His wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has remained in his shadow, until now.

Chao came from a major shipping family, and McConnell’s father-in-law gave the couple $59 million when they married. What happened to silver coasters?

The Citizens for Ethics (CREW) nonprofit has requested her Department of Transportation (DOT) records. After all, she did divert monies to infrastructure projects to make McConnell more electable.

Ex-president Donald Trump changed the DOT’s Office of Inspector General. Democrats wondered whether the IG could even conduct its business of maintaining integrity and completing “fair and unbiased investigations.”

CREW is in the process of suing “DOT, the DOT Office of Inspector General, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).” The organization is seeking the department’s records about how the ex-president moved political appointees to the department’s OIG leadership.

Acting DOT IG Mitchell Behm had been investigating Chao for handing her husband special preference given his upcoming political election in November 2020. Trump moved IG Behm out. Then, he inserted Howard “Skip” Elliott. That was a stunning development. After that, Trump wanted to nominate a Department of Justice trial counsel Eric Soskin as the permanent IG.

That wildly nontraditional appointment meant both Chao and McConnell would be in his corner.

CREW submitted three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in mid-May, 2020 to the DOT, DOT OIG, and PHMSA. It also wanted:

‘[A]ny recommendations from PHMSA and the current DOT OIG, communications from Chao or her office, and records from the DOT General Counsel on ethics around Elliott’s dual role. CREW received partial records from DOT OIG but not from either DOT or PHMSA.’

How likely would Trump’s appointees be to lean on Chao? Thus far, there have been no “irregular” findings regarding Chao favoring her husband, according to The POLITICO. However, it found that she linked her family’s business to the Chinese government while she was working for the DOT. The issue was referred to the DOJ for potential prosecution.

The FOIA request uncovered “four kinds of ethical violations:”

‘The internal watchdog faulted Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including planning to bring relatives on an official trip to China and requiring DOT’s public affairs staff to help market a book written by her father. It found she also had employees handle personal errands such as shipping Christmas ornaments.’

POLITICO and The New York Times investigated her “deep entanglement of her family” and the DOT:

‘Some of the inspector general’s conclusions back up reporting by POLITICO and The New York Times on the deep entanglement of Chao’s family with her work at the agency.’

Trump’s DOJ decided against prosecuting her. No surprise there.

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