Elaine Chao used DOT resources for her personal errands, family business: inspector general

Elaine Chao used DOT resources for her personal errands, family business: inspector general
Image via James F. X. O'Gara.
FOIA'd emails raise serious ethics concerns over Elaine Chao’s canceled trip to China: report

Elaine Chao, former secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, joined a number of Trump administration officials in submitting her letter of resignation just one day after the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. But now, details about her questionable practices during her time with the government agency are coming to light.

According to NPR, on Wednesday, March 3, the Transportation Department's Inspector General Mitch Behm released a detailed 38-page report about the investigation into Chao's business dealings during her time in office which has raised a multitude of ethical questions. The report indicates that Chao, also the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, may have used the government agency's resources for personal errors and family business endeavors.

The former secretary is accused of abusing her office to aid her family's business with its China dealings, the inspector general reported. Government agency staffers had a part in handling "matters related to her father, James Chao, who founded the shipping company Foremost Group, and her sister, Angela Chao, who runs the company."

Not only were her family members included in scheduled events during her official trip to China, but she also "requested, through the State Department, for China's Transport Ministry to arrange for two vehicles for her delegation, which included her sister and father. Officials at the State and Transportation Departments raised ethics concerns with the trip and it was ultimately canceled."

The publication also reports that "Chao also used agency resources and staff for small, personal tasks like checking on the repairs of an item at a store for her father or sending Christmas ornaments to her family."

Chao's office released a memo citing "filial piety." The memo, dated September 24, 2020, states, "Anyone familiar with Asian culture knows it is a core value in Asian communities to express honor and filial respect toward one's parents, and this ingrained value of love, respect, and filial piety always takes precedence over self-promotion and self-aggrandizement."

It also claimed, "As the eldest daughter, she is expected to assume a leadership role in family occasions that honor her father and her late mother."

In December, Transportation Department's inspector general called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate her alleged abuse of her office. However, the Justice Department declined the request arguing there "may be ethical and/or administrative issues to address but there is no predication to open a criminal investigation."

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