Progressive group requests Transportation Department look into Chao's potential conflicts of interest

Progressive group requests Transportation Department look into Chao's potential conflicts of interest
© Greg Nash

The progressive oversight group Restore Public Trust on Monday requested that the Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector general investigate Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? House committee launches investigation into Transportation Secretary Chao Trump awards Medal of Valor, civilian honors to responders in Dayton and El Paso shootings MORE over potential financial conflicts of interest.

The group noted that when Chao was appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE in 2017, she promised to divest from paving-materials company Vulcan Materials Co.

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However, reports emerged this month that she did not sell her shares in the company until June 3 of this year.

Vulcan's shares rose more than 16 percent while they were in her possession, resulting in more than $50,000 in earnings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Every new story makes it clear that the depths of Secretary Chao’s corruption seem to be never-ending,” Kyle Herrig, senior adviser for Restore Public Trust, said in a statement taking aim at a number of ethics issues that have been raised regarding Chao.

“Whether it’s helping her family’s shipping business, prioritizing contracts and grants to her state where her husband, the Senate Majority Leader, is running for reelection, or failing to divest her own financial conflicts, instances of Chao’s corruption continue to pile up. Even in an Administration that has shown a disdain for ethics and the rule of law, Chao’s actions stand out."

“Despite Chao’s pledge to Congress and the American people that she would divest from Vulcan Materials, she failed to do so. The clear conflicts of interest between the work of the transportation department and the work of Vulcan Materials should be fully investigated by the Office of Inspector General immediately.”

A spokesperson for the DOT slammed Restore Public Trust’s complaint, calling it a “political hit job.” 

“By virtue of her position in the Cabinet and who she is married to, the Secretary is a convenient target for those who oppose the work she is doing for the American people,” the spokesperson told The Hill.

“These disingenuous attacks are simply political hit jobs filled with innuendos that continue to be rejected every time they are recycled.” 

The spokesperson also noted that the stocks in Vulcan that Chao received as part of deferred compensation packages have been determined by department ethics officials to not create a conflict of interest.

--Updated at 11:59 a.m.