A report from the Department of Transportation’s inspector general determined that former Secretary Elaine Chao used her position and staff to personally enrich herself and her family.

The inspector general’s report demonstrates “that Secretary Chao used her official position and taxpayer resources for the benefit of herself and her family,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a statement Wednesday. “Secretary Chao’s flagrant abuse of her office provides further evidence that additional ethics and transparency reforms are needed.”

The report found Chao in violation of ethics rules including planning to bring relatives on an official trip, requiring her staff to help market her father’s book and having staff handle personal errands.

Chao planned an official trip to China in 2017, which she invited multiple family members to join her. The family planned to visit Shanghai Maritime University and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which Chao’s family have made substantial donations to. After people began to question the ethics of the trip, the Department of Transportation canceled it.


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Chao also told her public affairs staff to develop a media strategy for her father’s book, and the team was also expected to help market the book as well. Chao instructed her staff to schedule book signing events for her father as part of the official schedule for her trip to China. The report also found that Chao regularly had staff run her personal errands like inquiring about repairs or sending Christmas ornaments to family members.

A spokesperson for Chao said soon after that the report “exonerates the Secretary from baseless accusations and closes the book on an election-year effort to impugn her history-making career as the first Asian American woman appointed to a President’s Cabinet and her outstanding record as the longest tenured Cabinet member since World War II.”

The inspector general’s report does not recommend any form of reprimand or punishment for Chao. Chao stepped down from her position as secretary of transportation soon after the Capitol insurrection on January 6.

Chao is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

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