Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao met with officials from Kentucky, which her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), represents, much more than officials from any other state, according to a Politico report published Monday.
The news outlet reports a review of Chao’s public calendar records found that 25 percent of the secretary’s meetings with local officials from any state between January 2017 to March 2018 were with Kentuckians. Some of the officials had applied for grants through her department, it added.
Officials from Indiana and Georgia followed with 6 percent of the meetings each, according to Politico.
Moreover, Politico reports that at least five of the 18 meetings with local Kentuckians were requested by McConnell’s staffers, based on emails obtained under the dom of Information Act.
A Transportation Department spokesperson pushed back on the report, telling The Hill in a statement the “basic math” is “inaccurate” and said the story is “based on a few outdated and incomplete calendars provided by dark money, partisan political groups.”
The spokesperson said calendars are only from the first 14 months, “so it’s an incomplete picture.”
According to Politico, some local officials have found it difficult to reach Chao to discuss even some of the largest projects in the country.
“Ever since she came in, it’s been very hard to figure out how to get time with her,” Beth Osborne, executive director of Transportation for America, an organization that advises cities on transportation and urban planning, told the news outlet. “At the beginning of the administration we got a lot of questions about what it takes to meet with the secretary. People don’t ask anymore. It’s like they’ve given up.”
Osborne said she advises local leaders to invite Chao to their town to visit projects, but added that she “kept hearing from folks, ‘Oh, she doesn’t accept invitations to such things. She just doesn’t do that.’”
“And I heard that repeatedly: ‘We offered and we were told she just doesn’t do trips. That’s just not her thing,” Osborne continued.
The agency spokesperson also disputed the reporting on Chao not traveling, adding that the secretary has “visited many sites.”
Updated at 11:41 a.m.