Chao’s appearances with father raise ethical concerns: report

Greg Nash

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s numerous appearances in interviews with her father — who founded and chairs the Foremost Group shipping company that carries goods between the U.S. and Asia — have raised eyebrows among some ethics experts, according to a Politico report.

According to the report, ethics concerns stem from the fact that public officials are not legally allowed to use their positions to provide a benefit or financial gain to themselves or others.

One interview cited in the report is one that was given to New China Press, which was partly in Chinese. This one, in particular, raised concerns because Chao’s father, James, is seen discussing his life story in what appears to be the Department of Transportation with the agency’s flags in the background.


It is one of at least a dozen interviews the pair have done together.    

Government ethics experts told Politico that Chao’s media appearances with her father might violate a regulation that prevents federal employees from using their office for their own benefit or “for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”

Two of the secretary’s sisters also serve as CEO and general counsel, respectively, of the Foremost Group.

In at least one other interview appearance, the Transportation Department flag and the state flag of Kentucky, the state Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) represents, both appear in the background.

A spokesperson for Chao suggested she is only trying to meet the high demand of interest from Asian outlets, as she is the first Chinese-American and Asian-American woman to ever hold a Cabinet position.

“There is nothing inappropriate with a Cabinet member appearing with her father or other family members,” the spokesperson told the publication. “The secretary’s appearances are intended to share an inspirational story about immigrants from a minority community who have become successful in our country.”

However, experts tell Politico that the Chao’s joint interview sends a message that Foremost Group has high-level government connections, which is valuable in China.

“Doing business in China requires a lot of connections,” Diane Wei Liang, an author and a commentator on Chinese business, politics and culture tells Politico.

“Political connections are normally considered as real advantages for businesspeople. Any business that can demonstrate these kinds of connections sends a very positive message as to how successful the business is and how effective it would be to work with them.”

Tags Asia China Elaine Chao Ethics Kentucky Mitch McConnell

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