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Democratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials

Democratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Trump says talks on COVID-19 aid are now 'working out' Trump gambles with new stimulus strategy MORE (D-Ore.) is calling on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) inspector general to investigate whether Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTravel industry calls on Trump administration to prevent the need for quarantines by creating a testing plan Century of the Woman: Can Leading Women Have it All? Female lawmakers, officials call for more women at all levels of government to improve equity MORE showed explicit favoritism to Kentucky, which is her home state as well as that of her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like MORE (R).

"I would expect Secretary Chao to meet with individuals from her home state more regularly than other states, but the sheer volume … is troubling," DeFazio said in his letter, Politico reported on Tuesday.

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In articles from June and earlier this month, Politico had reported that Chao had designated a liaison to oversee Transportation grants and other priorities for Kentucky, and that she met with officials from the state far more often than those from any other.

"Even more troubling is the fact that Senator McConnell’s campaign touted the Politico article on social media,” said DeFazio, the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.

From January 2017 to March 2018, 25 percent of Chao’s scheduled meetings with officials from any state were reportedly with Kentuckians. Additionally, several of those meetings with Kentuckians were scheduled by McConnell staffers.

Kentucky residents make up 1.3 percent of the U.S. population.

Last week, McConnell's campaign tweeted out this month's article on Chao, saying "Mitch McConnell is a Kentucky Asset."

A Transportation Department spokesperson told Politico the allegations "were first raised by left wing advocacy groups and hashed out in the media, and the Department has previously fully responded to them."  

"They are politically motivated and intended to waste time. While the Department will always be cooperative and responsive to appropriate requests, DOT looks forward to a prompt and final resolution of these questions," the spokesperson said.

Rep. Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tech execs testify on platforms' liability MORE (R-Mo.), also a member of the Transportation Committee, wasn't pleased with DeFazio's letter, calling it a "ridiculous attempt at a political hit job," saying that the committee should be focused on "important bipartisan infrastructure issues, like fixing our roads and bridges, moving an overdue pipeline safety bill, and developing the next Water Resources Development Act."

Graves continued, characterizing Chao as “a consummate professional and effective transportation official in multiple administrations."

"Throughout our time working together she has always shown a dedication to improving infrastructure for all communities across the country,” Graves noted.