House votes to clamp down on DOT ethics rules after Elaine Chao reports
The House Monday voted to forbid Department of Transportation funding from being used to violate federal ethics rules that guard against using a public office for personal gain, in response to investigations into Secretary Elaine Chao by POLITICO and other news outlets.
The amendment by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), to a bill funding DOT for fiscal 2020, is one of several real and suggested responses by Democrats to recent scrutiny of Chao and her family’s international shipping business., which has been the subject of investigative stories by POLITICO and The New York Times. POLITICO also recently investigated DOT grants to Kentucky, the home state of Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“In light of recent reporting alleging potential misconduct by the secretary of the Department of Transportation, it is imperative that we remind federal officials that public money cannot be used for private purposes,” Krishnamoorthi said Monday afternoon on the House floor. “Government officials across agencies should not make policy decisions with the intent of benefiting family businesses.
“They should never use their position in an official capacity to promote their own personal financial interests and when tasked with any decision where there are potential conflicts of interest, they must recuse themselves,” Krishnamoorthi added.
Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Transportation-HUD Subcommittee, added that he thought the news reports were “disturbing.”
“It’s critical that anyone who serves in public office follows the law,” Price said.
As written, Krishnamoorthi’s amendment is mostly about sending a message. Ethics rules already forbid public offices from being used for public gain, and the text in question does not enshrine anything that would make enforcement any more stringent. So far, there’s no indication that any other more formal investigation is in the works.
DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Author: Brianna Gurciullo
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