Birds of a feather will flock together.
— Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
The marvelous thing about Mitch McConnell is that he’s unaffected by juxtaposition. Of course it was just a coincidence—his comments about the Biden stimulus package that, he said, uses taxpayer dollars that encourage people not to work, and the Inspector General’s report about the activities of McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who used taxpayer dollars to help her family in a way that could be said to encourage them not to work. Some people would be embarrassed by the timing of the report. Not Mitch. Consider his comments on the floor of the United States Senate and in interviews with Fox News on the effect the Biden stimulus package would have on the country.
On March 3, 2021, Mitch explained to Martha MacCallum on Fox News, that as a result of the Biden package: “There is a concern about making it more advantageous to stay home rather than going back to work. If we could do it all over again, we—meaning Republicans—may offer an alternative that we think fits the situation. And it’s considerably less than $1.9 trillion. . . .” At a press briefing before it was voted on, he described the bill as “wildly expensive” and “largely unrelated to the problem.”
Led by Mitch, the Republicans in the Senate, to a man and woman, ever mindful of their taxpaying constituents and the need to protect the taxpayers’ dollars and make sure they are appropriately used, on March 6, 2021, voted against the stimulus package sent to them by the House. It was hardly Mitch’s fault that three days before the vote took place, and on the same day he was being interviewed on Fox News, we learned of Elaine’s lack of concern for the very same taxpayers that Mitch was so interested in protecting from Biden’s profligacy.
On March 3, 2021, a report was released by the Transportation Department’s inspector general. The report disclosed that during Elaine’s tenure as transportation secretary under the trump administration, she used her office staff who were paid by taxpayers, to help her family. Her family has a shipping business that has extensive China ties.
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The report that was released on March 3 was preceded by an investigation by the Transportation Department’s inspector general into Elaine’s conduct while acting as Secretary. Following completion of that investigation in December 2020 the inspector general referred the report to the trump justice department for possible criminal investigation. To no one’s surprise, the trump justice department did nothing. Nonetheless, the report was not ignored.
On March 3, 2021, a 44-page report that detailed the results of the investigation into Elaine’s conduct as Secretary was delivered to the House. In delivering the report, Mike Behm, the Transportation Department’s deputy inspector general said in the letter that accompanied the report that: “A formal investigation into potential misuses of position was warranted.”
No formal finding that Elaine violated ethical rules was made but, according to the New York Times that reported the story, the investigators “detailed more than a dozen instances where her office, supported by the taxpayers took steps to handle matters related to her father, who built up a New York-based shipping company . . . .” Elaine did not take the adverse publicity that accompanied the delivery of the report lying down.
When the Inspector General’s report was delivered to the House, Elaine’s public relations firm issued a statement that said in part: “This 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.” (Elaine served as Secretary of Labor under the George W. Bush administration for the full eight years of his presidency.)
Among what the public relations firm described as baseless accusations, were the use of Elaine’s staff to arrange details for her father’s trip to China in October 2017, using her staff to do chores for her father such as promoting his Chinese-language biography and editing his Wikipedia page for him. The report further observes that in 2018 Elaine had her staff promote her father’s appearance “at events at Columbia University, SUNY Maritime College, Lloyd’s List, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.”
Elaine did not respond to questions from the Inspector General. Instead she issued a statement that explained why she had helped her father. She said: “Anyone familiar with Asian culture knows it is a core value in Asian communities to express honor and filial respect toward one’s parents. Asian audiences welcome and respond positively to action by the secretary that include her father in activities when appropriate.” Readers may decide for themselves whether her filial devotion expiates what many would have considered an abuse of her position and misuse of the taxpayers’ dollars.