'Banana republic’: Ethics experts slam Elaine Chao after she secures millions for projects in Mitch McConnell’s state
United States Senator and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Transportation Department Secretary Elaine Chao, are drawing vehement criticism in response to a Politico report that she helped secure funds for $78 million worth of transportation projects in his state.


According to Politico, Chao selected Transportation Department aide Todd Inman to serve as an intermediary to McConnell and state officials in Kentucky — the state for which he has been serving as a U.S. senator since the mid-1980s.

Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, has denounced the arrangement as wildly inappropriate. “We are now a full-fledged banana republic,” Shaub posted on Twitter. “We have nothing to teach the rest of the world except what not to be.”

Shaub also tweeted, “This is the sort of thing that should lead to the impeachment of a corrupt official — that is, if her corrupt husband weren’t in a position to block that impeachment.”

Silicon Valley techie Adam Rifkin, in response to Shaub’s “banana republic” comment, tweeted, “How many of Mitch McConnell’s favored projects for Kentucky are funded by Russian oligarchs?”

This is the sort of thing that should lead to the impeachment of a corrupt official — that is, if her corrupt husband weren’t in a position to block that impeachment. We are now a full-fledged banana republic. We have nothing to teach the rest of the world except what not to be. https://t.co/UbLPaGM9nK

— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 10, 2019

John Hudak of the Brookings Institution asserted that while Chao’s actions aren’t illegal, they are a huge conflict of interest. Hudak told Politico, “There’s nothing illegal about her steering those funds to her husband’s home state, and her home state, as long as things are aboveboard. The question, though, is: how do you deal with conflicts of interests? And this is a clear conflict.”