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Representative Sires Asks Department of Transportation Inspector General to Investigate Secretary Chao’s Conflicts of Interest

Oct 15, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) sent a letter along with 14 colleagues to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General’s Office asking for an investigation into possible conflicts of interest at DOT:

“Over the past four months, news reports have indicated that Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao may be using her position to prioritize transportation infrastructure projects in Kentucky at other states’ expense. These reports demonstrate instances of the Secretary’s office coordinating with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to schedule meetings between project applicants and the Secretary herself. In some cases, requests sent from the Majority Leader’s office highlighted possible meetings with “friends” or “loyal supporters.” According to the reports, Senator McConnell’s staff typically forwards the meeting requests to Secretary Chao’s Chief of Staff, who was formerly her special intermediary for Kentucky.

“Nearly every state has important transportation infrastructure project grant applications with DOT, but no other state gets as much attention from the Secretary of Transportation. Certainly, no other state official gets as many opportunities to advocate for their projects to the Secretary herself.

“Serving as the Secretary of Transportation and using her position to prioritize project grant applications for the Senate Majority Leader – who the Secretary happens to be married to – is evidence of a conflict of interest. That is why I am sending a letter to the DOT Inspector General’s Office to investigate this issue. The Department of Transportation has a framework for evaluating proposed projects on their merits through a competitive review process, not favoritism.”