Analysis finds 290 hours of ‘private’ meetings on Chao’s calendar

Analysis finds 290 hours of ‘private’ meetings on Chao’s calendar
© Greg Nash

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoSaluting FOIA on its birthday House passes bill to strengthen authority of federal watchdogs Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' MORE has spent more than 290 hours in meetings labeled "private" during her first 14 months in the position, according to a new Politico analysis of her calendars.

Documents obtained by Politico through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicate Chao has spent a large amount of time in "private" meetings, which have usually taken place on Fridays after lunchtime.

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One Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson told Politico some of the "private" time was spent traveling, while other blocks involved appointments ranging “from doctor’s appointments to meeting with personal friends to tending to personal needs or regularly sharing meals with her husband." 

Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Ky.).

“As everyone who has worked with her during her years as a Cabinet secretary knows well, the Secretary works very late into the night, early every morning and each and every weekend and has consistently done so while in office,” one DOT spokesperson told Politico in a statement.

Six former DOT officials told the publication the amount of time Chao is unaccounted for is “unusual.” 

“That seems to be quite a lot,” said Beth Osborne, former acting assistant secretary for transportation policy under President Obama. 

Politico focused its analysis on the blocks of "private" time Chao recorded between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. The documents reveal Chao's schedule from February 2017 through March 2018. 

In the week before the DOT announced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, Chao spent 11 hours in "private" meetings, Politico reported.