Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) shrugged off accusations Tuesday that he had received special treatment from his wife Elaine Chao, head of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

When McConnell was asked whether or not his office had gotten any preferential treatment when applying for federal funding grants, he denied that he had, responding, “You know, I was complaining to her [Chao] just last night, 169 projects and Kentucky got only five. I hope we’ll do a lot better next year.”

Regardless of the number of projects that were approved, it is undeniable that McConnell’s state of Kentucky received advantages that no other state had. In a report from Politico on Tuesday, it was revealed that Chao had assigned her chief of staff, Todd Inman, to specifically work with her husband’s office on grant applications for the state. In an email from Inman to McConnell’s office, the staffer wrote that Chao had personally asked him to be a special liaison to Kentucky, an assignment given to no other state.


Inman went on to work directly with representatives from Owensboro, Kentucky, a McConnell political stronghold. Inman called and emailed with the chief executive of the county, Al Mattingly, over how to improve the grant application for a local highway improvement project, personalized advice that no other region has received. Mattingly himself even conceded that Inman had probably used his influence with the DOT secretary to speed up the process. “Todd probably smoothed the way, I mean, you know, used his influence,” Mattingly told Politico. “Everybody says that projects stand on their own merit, right? So if I’ve got 10 projects, and they’re all equal, where do you go to break the tie?” He then went on to say, “Well, let’s put it this way: I only have her ear an hour when I go to visit her once a year. With a local guy, he has her ear 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You tell me.”

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