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 DeFazioLawmakers to question FAA chief on 737 Max review The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings Democratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe MORE (D-Ore.) is calling on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) inspector general to investigate whether Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Trump administration unveils latest guidelines for autonomous vehicle makers 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 worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial GOP senator 'open' to impeachment witnesses 'within the scope' of articles 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 GravesDemocratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials Trump administration to repeal waterway protections Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties 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.