Inspector General’s Report Cites Elaine Chao for Misuse of Office



“Public servants, especially those responsible for leading tens of thousands of other public servants, must know that they serve the public and not their family’s private commercial interests,” said Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which requested the investigation after the report in The Times.

The investigators found that Ms. Chao had used her staff to make extensive arrangements in 2017 for the planned trip to China, which was canceled just before her planned departure after ethics concerns were raised.

The trip had been scheduled to include stops at locations in China that had received financial support from her family’s company and also a meeting with “top leaders” in China that was scheduled to include her father and sister, but not other members of Transportation Department staff.

The investigators also found that she repeatedly asked agency staff members to help do chores for her father, including editing her father’s Wikipedia page, promoting his Chinese-language biography, and directing two staff members from the transportation secretary’s office to send a copy of her father’s book “to a well-known C.E.O. of a major U.S. corporation” to ask if he would write a forward for the book.

In one instance, staff members for Ms. Chao’s office were assigned in 2017 to check with the Department of Homeland Security on the status of a work permit application for a foreign student studying in the United States who had received a scholarship from a Chao family foundation, the report said. The student, according to the report, had interviewed Ms. Chao’s father, James Chao, at the New York headquarters of the family’s shipping company in order to share Mr. Chao’s experience “with Chinese millennials.”

Transportation Department staff members were given the job of arranging details for James Chao’s trip to China in October 2017, including asking, through the State Department, for China’s transport ministry to arrange for two cars for the six-person delegation, which included Ms. Chao’s younger sister, Angela Chao, who had succeeded their father as head of the family shipping company, and Angela Chao’s husband, the venture capitalist Jim Breyer.

Ms. Chao’s trip to China that year was abruptly canceled after news organizations, including The Times, asked about the makeup of Ms. Chao’s delegation.


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