Ethics Investigation Into Elaine Chao Cites Concerns

Transportation Department's inspector general releases report
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2021 2:00 AM CST
Ethics Investigation Into Elaine Chao Cites Concerns
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., participates in a mock swearing-in as his wife Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao holds a Bible, in the Old Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.   (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell's wife and the transportation secretary under former President Trump, allegedly used her position to assist family members and used DoT employees to run personal errands, according to a report released Wednesday by the Transportation Department's inspector general. The ethics investigation began after the New York Times in 2019 reported on ethical concerns involving Chao's position and her interactions with her family, and in December of last year, the IG referred the issue to the Justice Department for a possible criminal probe—which the DoJ declined to pick up. The report does not formally find Chao violated ethics rules, but it says that on more than a dozen occasions, her office took actions on behalf of Chao's father and sister, the New York Times reports. Chao's sister took over as head of the family shipping company after their father, 93, stepped down.

Politico reports four types of violations were listed, including: planning to bring family members along on an official trip to China; using DoT public affairs staff to promote her father's book; and having staffers run personal errands like shipping holiday gifts. CNN reports on another such errand: having employees edit her father's Wikipedia page. But the report found no evidence to support other accusations, like claims that DoT was directing disproportionate amounts of grant money to Kentucky, the state McConnell represents in Congress. On that note, the statement from a PR firm representing Chao in response to the report states: "This report exonerates the secretary from baseless accusations and closes the book on an election-year effort to impugn her history-making career as the first Asian-American woman appointed to a president’s cabinet and her outstanding record as the longest tenured cabinet member since World War II." (Read more Elaine Chao stories.)

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