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House Panel Probing Transportation Secretary Chao’s Ties to Family Shipping Business

Elaine Chao testifies before a Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to be transportation secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

September 16, 2019 by Bloomberg

By Ryan Beene (Bloomberg) –The House Oversight committee is investigating whether Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao used her office to improperly benefit a shipping company owned and controlled by her family, the panel disclosed in a letter to Chao on Monday.

The panel asked Chao to provide it with documents and information for the probe, including communications between Chao or other DOT officials and employees of the Foremost Group, a shipping company founded by Chao’s father James Chao and led by her sister Angela Chao.

Among the issues the committee is examining are Chinese media appearances Chao made alongside her father while in office, and a planned 2017 trip to China that was scrapped after ethics officials questioned attempts by Chao to include her family members in meetings with the Chinese government, according to the letter, which cited a New York Times report.

“The Committee is investigating several allegations relating to your service as Secretary of Transportation, including troubling questions about whether you are using your office to benefit yourself and your family,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote in the letter.

The panel is also probing Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, over possible issues linked to her previous holdings in Vulcan Materials Co., a construction company, according to the letter. Prior to being confirmed as Transportation Secretary, Chao agreed sell divest from the company by April 2018 but did not do so until June 2019, according to the committee.

In a statement, a Transportation Department spokesman said the department had received a letter “seeking information on a variety of topics based on publicly available information and news coverage. We look forward to responding to the Committee’s request. Media attacks targeting the Secretary’s family are stale and only attempt to undermine her long career of public service.”

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

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