Chao agreed to refrain from scheduling media events involving his family without consulting the DOT ethics office. This happened after POLITICO reported on her media appearances with her father in which she promoted her personal story, her shipping business, and her book.
She also asked her staff to inquire about the status of an application for a work permit for a foreign student studying at a U.S. university who had received an award from her family’s philanthropic foundation, the inspector general found. And the report shows that Chao also used DOT resources and personnel for personal tasks, such as checking repairs at a store for his father and having them send Christmas decorations to his family.
IG’s office investigators forwarded their findings to the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and its Public Integrity Section in December, but the two offices refused to open criminal investigations.
Chao could not be reached immediately for comment through the Hudson Institute think tank, where she is a member.
“While I commend the Office of the Inspector General of the Ministry of Transport for conducting this review, I am disappointed that it was not completed and released while Secretary Chao was still in office,” said the Minister of Transport. Speaker of the House of Transport, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), One of two lawmakers who called for the inquiry. “I am even more disappointed that the Justice Department has refused to pursue questions that the IG office corroborated in its investigation.”
The Inspector General could not find any evidence to support further allegations of Chao’s misconduct. These include several raised by POLITICO reports that involved the DOT’s excessive transfer of discretionary grants to Kentucky, the state represented by her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Inspector General also reviewed the frequency of meetings that Chao and his senior officials had with Kentucky officials, but said there was “no standard by which to judge whether the number of meetings in his country d The origin is so excessive that it raises ethical questions. The IG also found no “irregularities” in the department’s awarding of grants to Kentucky, although it noted persistent criticisms of the lack of transparency in the DOT grant-making process.
The Inspector General’s office had already opened a preliminary review of Chao’s potential abuse of his office before being requested by the committee. The office ruled that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a formal investigation into Chao’s grantmaking or financial interest in Vulcan Materials, but continued a formal investigation into “potential abuses of position. “.