The Senator blocking investigations into Trump's corruption and criminality is getting his home state projects greased by the cabinet agency that Trump appointed his wife to run. Nothing to see here at all. https://t.co/DPWa9Eb5LY
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) June 10, 2019
At DOT, Chao hired a former McConnell campaign worker and had him focus on Kentucky grants that could help her husband campaign for re-election. My story this morning with @TSnyderDC.https://t.co/UEBvEtGH8C
— Tucker Doherty (@tucker_doherty) June 10, 2019
Guess it’s nice for the GOP senators who’ve handed their balls over to Mitch to know that, should his Russian funding ever dry up, he won’t be reduced to peddling his memoirs to support his lifestyle:
The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.
Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications…
The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.
Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other…
(Much more at the link. As with so many similar one-man pork projects, the money seems to have drained away on ‘showpiece’ architectural projects that benefited a small cadre of connected businessmen without providing much assistance to the voters who really needed some help.)
The power couple isn’t particulary covert about their money-spinning prowess. Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair:
… Last week, the New York Times reported that the secretary tried to bring family members to government meetings with Chinese officials, despite said family members having major financial entanglements in China. Last month, the Wall Street Journal found that she’d made a $40,000 profit on her stake in Vulcan, the nation’s largest construction materials supplier, despite having promised—over a year ago!—to divest from the company, on whose board she sat…
Cole linked to the NYTimes article when it appeared, but seriously: Can you imagine the outrage if a Democratic Senator’s wife did anything like this?
… Ms. Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is in steep decline and overshadowed by its Chinese competitors.
Her efforts on behalf of the family business — appearing at promotional events, joining her father in interviews with Chinese-language media — have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.
Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government, whose policies have been labeled by the Trump administration as threats to American security. The company’s primary business — delivering China’s iron ore and coal — is intertwined with industries caught up in a trade war with the United States. That dispute stems in part from the White House’s complaints that China is flooding the world with subsidized steel, undermining American producers.
Foremost, though a relatively small company in its sector, is responsible for a large portion of orders at one of China’s biggest state-funded shipyards, and has secured long-term charters with a Chinese state-owned steel maker as well as global commodity companies that guarantee it steady revenues…
Since Elaine Chao became transportation secretary, records show, the agency budget has repeatedly called to cut programs intended to stabilize the financially troubled maritime industry in the United States, moving to cut new funding for federal grants to small commercial shipyards and federal loan guarantees to domestic shipbuilders.
Her agency’s budget has also tried to slash spending for a grant program that helps keep 60 American-flagged ships in service, and has tried to scale back plans to buy new ships that would train Americans as crew members. (In China, Ms. Chao’s family has paid for scholarships and a ship simulator to train Chinese seamen.)
Congress, in bipartisan votes, has rejected the budget cuts, some of which have been offered up again for next year. One opponent of the cuts has been Representative Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat whose district includes one of the nation’s largest cargo ports.
“The Chinese government is massively engaged in maritime expansion as we have walked away from it,” he said in an interview. “There is going to come a crisis, and we are going to call upon the U.S. maritime industry, and it is not going to be around.”…
Future historians, assuming there are any, are gonna roll their eyes at the national naivete that allowed us to consider the Harding administration as the American oligarchy’s worst abuse of the public treasury.