Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao with her husband Senator Mitch McConnell, at the White House in January 2017.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao with her husband Senator Mitch McConnell, at the White House in January 2017. (Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Ethics Watchdogs Sound Alarm After Transportation Secretary Chao Delivers Major Federal Contract to Husband Mitch McConnell's Kentucky

"Chao's corruption has gone unchecked for too long."

Eoin Higgins

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is under fire from progressives and ethics watchdogs after reporting from Politico Tuesday revealed she helped deliver a $67 million federal contract to her husband Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky.

Kyle Herrig, president of the anti-corruption group Accountable.US, said the contract—the largest of its kind delivered to Kentucky during the three years President Donald Trump has been in office—is just the latest example of Chao's behavior that warrants a serious look.

"The unending stream of stories that detail the depth of Secretary Elaine Chao’s improper use of taxpayer dollars to boost her husband Mitch McConnell’s political career is alarming," Herrig said in a statement. "This type of political corruption is a threat to our democracy and destroys Americans' faith in government."

"Chao's corruption has gone unchecked for too long," Herrig added. "It's time for House Oversight to expand its investigation to encompass her department's unethical favoritism towards Kentucky in order to help her husband's political career. Enough is enough."

As The American Independent reports, Chao's alleged favoritism toward her husband is under review by the Government Accountability Office.

Tuesday's controversy revolves around a contract given to Kentucky's northern Boone County by Chao's office.

According to Politico, the county was among 42 applicants given extra time to fill in deficiencies in its submission, time not given to 55 other incomplete applications:

Moreover, emails obtained by Politico show that Boone County officials were in contact with Chao's aide Todd Inman, a former McConnell campaign staffer known to offer extra guidance to Kentuckians with business before the secretary.

"It really invites skepticism, and it raises questions about the integrity of the process and ultimately the decisions that are made," Susan Fleming, director of GAO's physical infrastructure team, told Politico. "Are these decisions driven by merit? Or are they driven by other factors?"

To a number of observers, the answer to Fleming's question appeared clear: the latter. Progressives noted polling showing a tough re-election fight for McConnell and wondered if Chao is funnelling federal projects to Kentucky to help her husband.

"Normally, what you see is people who don't really like Mitch McConnell very much and are skeptical of him have chosen to pull the lever for him anyway," Kentucky Democrats deputy executive director Marisa McNee told Politico of the senator's unpopularity. "I think what we're seeing in northern Kentucky is a willingness to walk away from that Republican label that we haven't seen in a long time."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

'Hello Somebody!' Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Campaigns for Nina Turner in Cleveland

"I think it's extremely clear that Nina Turner is the candidate in this race that answers to the people of Ohio first and foremost."

Jessica Corbett ·


Medicare for All Advocates Take to the Streets of Over 50 US Cities

"How can we have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when we live in constant fear of illness, bankruptcy, or homelessness because of the outrageous for-profit healthcare system?"

Jessica Corbett ·


Thousands Join Budapest Pride Parade to Protest Attacks on LGBTQ+ Hungarians

"A lot has happened over the last few years, and it's time to show that we're not okay with it," said one of the organizers.

Jessica Corbett ·


US Lawmakers Demand $34 Billion for Global Vaccine Equity Funding in Reconciliation Package

"No investment in the fight against Covid-19 is more urgent and cost-effective now than an investment in getting the world vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ilhan Omar Demands Answers After First Somalia Airstrike of Biden Era

"It is critical that we realize we are not going to simply drone the al-Shabaab problem to death," the Somali-American congresswoman asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·