Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is being investigated by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for a potential conflict of interest between her official role and her family’s shipping company, The New York Times reports. The committee reportedly sent Chao document and information requests on Monday, including requests related to communications between the Transportation Department and members of Chao’s family. The requests also sought materials related to Chao’s trip to China that was canceled after State Department officials raised ethics concerns. The company, Foremost Group, is based in New York but has done business in China.
“Federal regulations prohibit federal employees from using their public offices for... private gain,” the committee’s letter to Chao read, referring to allegations that Chao used her “official position to elevate Foremost Group's influence and status with the Chinese government.”
Through a spokesperson, Chao has denied taking official action to benefit Foremost. The Transportation Department said it would respond to the request, and said “media attacks” targeting Chao were just an “attempt to undermine her long career of public service.” This comes after The Daily Beast reported that members of Congress doubted whether the probe was warranted and feared retribution against infrastructure projects in their own districts.