No sooner had Axios reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planned to aggressively step up her attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than the New York Times reported that the House Oversight Committee had escalated its investigation of McConnell’s wife, Transportation Department Secretary Elaine Chao, by asking her to hand over documents pertaining to communication with her family’s shipping company.
Led by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the House Oversight Committee is investigating Chao to determine if there are any conflicts of interest between her activities as Commerce Department secretary in the Trump Administration and her connection to Foremost Group — a New York City-based shipping company owned by Chao’s family. Activities that the House Oversight Committee considers questionable, according to New York Times reporters Eric Lipton and Michael Forsythe, include public appearances with her father James Chao (who founded Foremost Group) and plans to simultaneously meet with her father and Chinese government officials.
In a letter sent to Chao on Monday, the House Oversight Committee noted that “federal regulations prohibit federal employees from using their public offices for the ‘private gain’” of friends or family members. The letter, signed by Cummings and Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, reads, “Several reports indicate that you have used your official position to benefit Foremost Group, a shipping company owned by your father and sisters that is headquartered in New York and operates a fleet that transports materials to and from China.”
The letter also inquires about Chao’s failure to sell, in 2018, her interest in the company Vulcan Materials Company as she had promised. Vulcan manufactures road construction materials.
A spokesperson for Chao has stated that as Transportation Department secretary, she has taken no official action designed to boost Foremost Group.