Donald Trump just named Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s wife to the cabinet position of Transportation Secretary. Elaine Chao is a consummate Republican insider, who served under George W. Bush’s administration from 2001-2009 as Secretary of Labor after immigrating to America from Taiwan with her family at age 8, following her father who immigrated as a scholarship student.
In 2011, the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) concluded in a 118-page report (below) that Elaine Chao, along with numerous other Bush Administration officials used their government titles and authority illegally in partisan activity, breaking the Hatch Act in numerous ways. It is the same law FBI Director James Comey has been accused of violating in this year’s presidential election, with his untimely letters about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Elaine Chao participated in 25 events during Karl Rove’s last stand in 2006, which was documented in Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Ca.) scalding report about the Bush Administration’s illegal scheme. They deployed cabinet members to illegally give out cold, hard cash to communities across America with failing Republican Congressmen in the months before they lost control of Congress. The Department of Justice concluded:
OSC has concluded that all of these activities constituted “political activity” because they were directed at the electoral success of Republican candidates and the Republican Party as a whole. These activities took place in federal buildings and during normal business hours in violation of the Hatch Act.
Chao also was blamed for two major mining disasters as Secretary of Labor after her agency cut 100 federal safety inspectors from the MHSA. One of the mining disasters happened after years of regulatory neglect, and cost the lives of 12 miners. A second major accident caused the deaths of six more miners and three brave rescue workers. Unlike Senator McConnell’s made up “War on Coal,” these two incidents really did happen on the watch of Kentucky’s Republican power couple:
Chao’s tenure as Labor Secretary saw two mine disasters for which she was criticized. Twelve miners were killed in the Sago Mine disaster on January 2, 2006, and three rescue workers died in the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster on August 6, 2007. Before the mines collapsed, Chao had cut more than a hundred coal mine safety inspections.According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Nearly half of the 208 safety citations levied in 2005 against the Sago coal mine where 12 men died this week were ‘serious and substantial.'”
Elaine Chao’s oversight of the Labor Department also coincided with a lengthy period of lax enforcement of labor laws like the minimum wage and delivery of false data to Congress about the expense of privately contracting government duties.
After analyzing 70,000 closed case files from 2005 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) inadequately investigated complaints from low- and minimum-wageworkers alleging that employers failed to pay the federal minimum wage, required overtime, and failed to issue a last paycheck. A 2008 Government Accountability Office report noted that the Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees’ work to private firms during Chao’s tenure.
Are you wondering about Elaine Chao’s punishment for using a Cabinet position to help Republicans in elections? The OSC concluded that there was no adequate remedy under the law to punish departed officials, because all they can really do is fire them for the violation. Maybe Congress will take note of the fact that she’s violated federal law in office before and vote against her nomination, but with her hubby leading the Senate, that’s extremely unlikely, even though we have plainly documented evidence of illegal behavior.
This is another fine case study of Donald Trump’s plan to “drain the swamp” by hiring yet another tainted, Republican insider and the wife of a Senator to boot. Doubtless, the leader of the Senate isn’t going to vote against his own wife being installed to a top government job, and it’s hard to imagine him being a fair and independent overseer of her job performance at the Department of Transportation either.
Americans thought they were voting Trump for change, but it’s obvious that Trump has no intention of changing anything in Washington – except unravel our most basic rights and freedoms while he and his cronies loot the country blind.
Here’s the complete OSC report about Elaine Chao’s Hatch Act violations:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.