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Tue Jun 11, 2019, 08:58 AM

Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell's potential conflict of interest, explained [View all]


Chao oversaw grant money that could benefit her husband politically. Is it an ethics violation?

By Li Zhouli@vox.com Jun 11, 2019, 7:50am EDT

While referencing infrastructure projects this past April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a seemingly charming quip about his personal life. “My roommate has been involved in this issue for a couple of years,” he said, when asked about a potential funding package to overhaul the country’s crumbling roads and bridges. The “roommate” he’s referring to is, of course, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who also happens to be his wife.

Although this reference was intended as a joke in his April remarks, a recent Politico story casts the effect of their personal ties in a potentially more nefarious light.

The report, from Tucker Doherty and Tanya Snyder, notes that Chao has overseen the allocation of nearly $80 million in federal grants to Kentucky during her time as transportation secretary, designating a special intermediary to help the state navigate this funding process, a resource that few states have. It raises questions about whether Chao — who oversees funding for everything from highway construction to port development at the Department of Transportation — was treating Kentucky differently due to her relationship with McConnell.

DOT refuted such implications in the piece, though ethics experts note that Chao and McConnell’s relationship make such grant allocations — and concerns about if there was favoritism involved — especially murky.

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https://www.vox.com/2019/6/11/18659681/elaine-chao-mitch-mcconnell-transportation-secretary-trump-pruitt-zinke-price

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