UPDATE: The Department of Transportation provided a response below
Trump’s Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, is married to Moscow Mitch McConnell, who represents the state of Kentucky in the Senate. And she has consistently met with Kentucky officials more than officials from any other state.
What a coincidence!
Politico reports that 25% of the scheduled meetings between January 2017 and March 2018 were with local officials from Kentucky. For perspective, the population of Kentucky makes up about 1.3% of the U.S. total population. The next highest percentage of meetings went to Georgia and Indiana, who each received 6% of the total.
Chao’s records show that several of those meetings were made at the request of McConnell’s staffers who emailed the Transportation secretary and claimed the KY officials were “loyal supporters” or “friends.” The emails would often outline projects that the officials were hoping to discuss or information about competitive grants the officials had applied for.
The department has always claimed not to show any favoritism for McConnell’s home state, but Chao’s own schedules show that isn’t entirely true:
There are federal ethics rules in place to prevent government officials from making decisions that benefit themselves personally or the members of their families. Things look especially murky in the situation of Chao and McConnell, since the Senator is touting his ability to snag federal dollars for Kentucky as part of his re-election campaign.
Grifty Mitch and Wifey
Earning bigly in Trumps Klepto World! https://t.co/sLr5IIhQlb
— MsActiviss🌿 #BlueJustice🌊 (@MsActiviss) February 19, 2019
Chao’s office claims she has an “open-door policy” and “welcomes meetings from all state and local officials.”
UPDATE: a U.S. DOT Spokesperson reached out to Front Page Live to provide this Response to the Politico story:
“In nearly three years transportation blogger Tanya Snyder has written more misleading articles focused on the Secretary’s calendar than on infrastructure or the safety technology that is the future of transportation- and that’s sad. Not only is the basic math inaccurate, it’s based on a few outdated and incomplete calendars provided by dark money, partisan political groups. The story also ignores the countless hours the Department puts in each day to revitalize American infrastructure while citing a group that attacks the Department weekly as a supposedly objective source.”
“Finding nothing substantive in the several previous rounds of reporting on this same topic, the reporter continually links to old, biased stories to drive website revenue. Buried deep in these stories are quotes from Senate Democratic sources saying “DOT will talk to anyone.” No new information is presented in these repetitive attacks on the work of the Department, and our work will continue regardless.”
However, Beth Osborne, the executive director of Transportation for America, has a different opinion regarding Chao’s accessibility:
“Ever since she came in, it’s been very hard to figure out how to get time with her. At the beginning of the administration we got a lot of questions about what it takes to meet with the secretary. People don’t ask anymore. It’s like they’ve given up.”
Chao’s office also claims it is normal for her to put a larger focus on meeting with officials from her home-state claiming “she’s a proud Kentuckian.” Yet, Kentucky isn’t actually her home state, New York is where she lived the majority of her life and where her family still resides. Officials in NY don’t get near the amount of attention that those from KY receive.
This type of conflict needs to be addressed in law. No one in the Congress should be married or closely related to someone in the cabinet. Conflict of interest.
— Trish22Bee (@trish22bee) February 19, 2019
The KY officials that Chao met with included state legislators, county executives, airport directors, and other elected officials. Almost all of them had some sort of pending grant application or other types of official business with the Transportation department.