Allegations against Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao of ethics violations and conflicts of interest have prompted a response by DOT officials. In a letter signed by one of Chao’s subordinates, the DOT called the allegations “simply false” and went further, saying that they demonstrated “a fundamental lack of understanding [of]… East Asian culture and families.”
On September 16th, the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the US DOT, announcing that they had begun investigating Chao’s possible conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and “misstatements of fact.”
“The Committee is investigating several allegations relating to your service as Secretary of Transportation, including troubling questions about whether you are using your office to benefit yourself and your family,” reads the letter.
In a response letter from the DOT, Assistant Secretary of Governmental Affairs Adam Sullivan writes that “the allegation that the Secretary has used her official position to benefit her family’s business is simply false.”
Concerns had surfaced thanks to multiple media reports. Allegations included that Chao had appeared on Chinese media alongside her father, the founder of an international shipping group with financial ties to China which is still owned by Chao’s family with her sister as it’s CEO. During some of those broadcasts, Chao and her father stood behind the official seal of the Department of Transportation. On one occasion, Chao’s father reportedly “boasted about his access to President Trump on Air Force One.”
The letter does not deny this allegation. Instead, it re-brands the ‘Chinese media’ as “Chinese-language media,” saying “it should come as no surprise that Secretary Chao would receive requests for interviews from media outlets that serve Asian American and Asian communities” given her status as “the first American of Chinese ancestry in history, male or female, to sit in a President’s Cabinet.”
“Like many other Americans of Asian heritage, the Secretary values and honors her parents, and she cherishes the opportunity to spend time with and care for her father, while honoring the memory of her mother,” writes Sullivan in regards to allegations. “The web of innuendo and the baseless inferences contained in these new reports demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of these key cultural values, which are central to East Asian culture and families.”