Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismissed a report that his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, designated one of her top staffers to help steer federal funds to McConnell’s home state.
Asked whether he had received any special consideration for transportation grants because of his status as Chao’s husband, McConnell turned the tables, suggesting that he had discussed federal projects with Chao and that she hadn’t steered enough funds to his state.
“You know, I was complaining to her just last night: 169 projects, and Kentucky got only five. I hope we’ll do a lot better next year,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday at his weekly news conference.
Politico reported Monday that Chao had tapped a top aide and former McConnell campaign staffer, Todd Inman, to serve as a “special intermediary” for Kentucky, helping to steer at least $78 million in federal grants to projects favored by the Senate majority leader. Critics have argued that the arrangement provides special political benefit to McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2020.
Politico cited a Transportation Department spokesman as saying that Kentucky was awarded only five of 169 grants during Chao’s tenure as secretary.
“No state receives special treatment from DOT,” the spokesman said, describing Kentucky as ranking 26th in population and 25th in funds disbursed by the department since President Trump took office.
The Politico report was only the latest to examine Chao’s political and business ties. A New York Times investigation last week detailed the connections between China and the shipping business run by Chao’s family. And Forbes reported Monday on the $59 million will of Chao’s mother, Ruth Chao.