TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – In an investigative report, The New York Times revealed that the family of U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has prospered from its political connections with the world’s two largest economies.
The Chaos’ connections to China date back decades, when the Chao family acquired a stake in a state-owned marine equipment manufacturer, which did business with China’s military and was deeply involved with a ministry led by Jiang Zemin. According to the report, Jiang was a schoolmate of James Chao.
In 1964, James Chao established the New York-based shipping company Foremost Group, more than 70 percent of whose freight is shipped to China, with iron ore taking up the lion’s share. The iron ore has become source for China’s steel products, a bone of contention in an escalating conflict between China and the U.S.
With Ms. Chao at the helm, the Transportation Department has called for cuts for projects aimed at supporting American-flagged ships, leading to doubt over the Trump administration’s commitment to shipping. Department officials claim that Ms. Chao’s actions as agency head “have nothing to do with her family’s business in China,” reported The New York Times.
Nevertheless, Chao’s family ties to the shipping company and her relationship with China have caused ethical concerns. She is known to make use of her connections to raise the company’s profile, such as by appearing at a contract signing event between Foremost and the Sumitomo Group of Japan.
The report also found that McConnell benefited from his marriage with Elaine Chao. Since 1989, Chao family members have donated more than US$1 million to McConnell’s campaigns and affiliated political action committees. The couple also received a present worth up to US$25 million, making McConnell one of the wealthiest members of the Senate.