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 DeFazioTrump's ambitious infrastructure vision faces Senate GOP roadblock  Overnight Energy: Democrats push green measures in next stimulus | Coalition petitions EPA for tougher pollution disclosure rules | Trump to meet oil executives Friday Democrats push for green infrastructure provisions in next coronavirus package MORE (D-Ore.) is calling on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) inspector general to investigate whether Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Trump administration rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards 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 McConnellDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims 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 GravesOvernight Energy: Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan | Iowans push 2020 candidates on climate | Sanders offers bill on 'forever chemicals' Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan House Democrats unveil 0B infrastructure plan 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.