McConnell’s “Ethical Challenges” Again in Spotlight as New Report Reveals Special Treatment “Dovetails With…Electoral Objectives”
POLITICO: “Chao’s calendar shows that one out of every four meetings with local officials was with Kentuckians” & “McConnell staffers… alerted Chao’s staffers which of the officials were ‘friends’ or ‘loyal supporters’”
Senator Mitch McConnell’s public corruption and ethical conflicts are back in the news yet again this week, as a new POLITICO report reveals that McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has used her position to meet with officials from Kentucky “vastly more often than those from any other state,” including “‘friends’ or ‘loyal supporters’” of her husband’s political career who have used the access to “ask her for special favors.”
“After decades of looking out for himself and his special interest donors, Mitch McConnell has become the most self-serving creature in Washington,” said DSCC spokesperson Stewart Boss. “As he continues to obstruct critical legislation to bring down prescription drug costs and keep communities safe from gun violence, McConnell is busy using his position and his family ties to deliver favors for his political allies — making it clearer than ever why he’s the most unpopular Senator in the country.”
POLITICO: Elaine Chao favored Kentuckians in meeting with officials seeking grants
Transportation secretary met far more often with constituents of her husband Mitch McConnell than officials from any other state.
By Tanya Snyder, Tucker Doherty, and Arren Kimbel-Sannit
October 7, 2019
- In her first 14 months as Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao met with officials from Kentucky, which her husband Mitch McConnell represents in the Senate, vastly more often than those from any other state.
- In all, 25 percent of Chao’s scheduled meetings with local officials of any state from January 2017 to March 2018 were with Kentuckians, who make up only about 1.3 percent of the U.S. population.
- At least five of Chao’s 18 meetings with local Kentuckians were requested in emails from McConnell staffers, who alerted Chao’s staffers which of the officials were “friends” or “loyal supporters,” according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
- The emails from McConnell’s office to Chao’s staff sometimes included details about projects that participants wanted to discuss with the secretary, or to ask her for special favors.
- The meetings also cast light on the ethical challenges of having a married couple as Transportation secretary and Senate majority leader. Federal ethics rules strictly prohibit any actions by government officials that benefit them personally or their close family members; McConnell and Chao’s political and personal fortunes are inextricably tied, and his re-election campaign frequently cites his ability to deliver federal dollars to his home state.
- “The marriage is the thing that underlies all of this,” said Mel Dubnick, a professor of government ethics and accountability at the University of New Hampshire. Home-state bias in federal government is a common issue in federal grant-making, he said, but Chao’s marriage to the country’s most powerful lawmaker makes the arrangement almost unprecedented.
- McConnell’s staff noted when meeting requests came from officials with close ties to the majority leader.
- Inman, who has now advanced to be Chao’s chief of staff, helped arrange meetings once he received the forwarded requests. In one instance, Inman helped set up a meeting that DOT staff had planned to decline when it was initially requested through other channels. He reconsidered after the request came directly from McConnell’s office.
- …public records obtained by POLITICO show that Inman followed up with meeting participants via phone and email, offering extra information and useful favors from his position in the department.
Read the full report here.
More here on the “almost unprecedented” corruption and ethical conflicts that have come to define McConnell’s self-serving career: