Elaine Chao's Excuse For Using the DOT As Her Father's Personal PR Agency: I'm Asian!

Elaine Chao's Excuse For Using the DOT As Her Father's Personal PR Agency: I'm Asian!
Image:Samuel Corum (Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose sole positive attribute is her collection of admittedly inspirational wigs, tended to fly under the radar during the previous administration. Amidst so many other more flagrantly corrupt and evil bureaucrats, Chao garnered little attention, despite reports that she mixed her official business with that of her very rich family.

But it turns out that lack of scrutiny was in part a result of deliberate steps taken by the Trump administration to shield her from consequences. According to the New York Times, the Transportation Department’s inspector general had looked into Chao’s repeated ethics violations involving her family during her tenure, and what they found was alarming enough that they sent their findings up the chain to the Justice Department “for possible criminal investigation.” But the Justice Department turned down the opportunity to investigate how she used her public office to benefit her and her family.

On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation’s inspector general released the report. According to its findings, Chao not only used her position of power to have her staff help her run personal errands, but to… run the public relations campaign for her shipping magnate father’s book, a 2018 biography titled Fearless Against the Wind???

More via the New York Times, emphasis my own:

The investigators also found that she repeatedly asked agency staff members to help do chores for her father, including editing his Wikipedia page and promoting his Chinese-language biography. They said she directed two staff members from her office to send a copy of Mr. Chao’s book “to a well-known C.E.O. of a major U.S. corporation” to ask if he would write a foreword for it.
In 2018, Ms. Chao’s staff at the Transportation Department helped promote her father at events at Columbia University, SUNY Maritime College, Lloyd’s List, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, according to the report.

The OIG report has more details on how Chao used her staff to promote her father’s biography, including that Chao “had asked a third staffer to edit the sample foreword” to Fearless Against the Wind, and that DOT staffers were asked to maintain and regularly update a list of all of her father’s awards. The report also alleges that DOT staffers “also drafted, edited, and implemented a media strategy and public relations plan” for her father’s biography, a plan that included “amplifying the coverage” of his biography in “regional press as a means to build Dr. Chao’s profile and to share the story of his journey,” and “working with the publisher to promote the book to mainstream press…as part of our outreach on Dr. Chao.”

If you’re wondering why Chao would rely on staff of a federal agency to do the work of boosting her father’s profile, her rationale apparently is to couch her corruption and abuse of power as… Asian cultural values.

Via the New York Times, emphasis my own:

Ms. Chao had declined to respond to questions from the inspector general and instead provided a memo that detailed the importance of promoting her family as part of her official duties.
“Anyone familiar with Asian culture knows it is a core value in Asian communities to express honor and filial respect toward one’s parents,” the September 2020 memo said. “Asian audiences welcome and respond positively to actions by the secretary that include her father in activities when appropriate,” it continued.

Ah yes, I too have engaged in rampant corruption out of a sense of duty to my parents. That’s exactly what Confucius wanted!

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