Remember that sweet television show with Rock Hudson, back in the day, “McMillan and Wife” where the couple solved mysteries together? Welcome to McConnell and Wife, where every week the couple that preys together pillages the coffers of the United States government and uses their political positions to influence things to their own personal advantage. If there’s one show in Washington that needs to go on hiatus, or better yet get cancelled, this is the one. The Hill:
The House Oversight Committee on Monday launched an investigation into whether Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is using her office to benefit herself and her family.
“The Committee is examining your misstatements of fact, your actions that may have benefitted the company in which you continued to hold shares, and your compliance with ethics and financial disclosure requirements,” Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to Chao.
Elaine Chao didn’t divest herself of shares in a company that posed a clear conflict of interest when she accepted her cabinet position until June, 2019 — and then only because of bad publicity. New York Times:
Days earlier, The Wall Street Journal, followed by other news media, reported that she had not cashed out, as promised, stock options she held in Vulcan Materials, an Alabama-based producer of crushed stone and asphalt, where she served on the board before joining the Trump administration.
On Wednesday, Ms. Chao sent a letter to the Transportation Department’s top ethics lawyer, notifying the agency of the sale. In the letter, she attributed the stock holdings to an “inadvertent misstatement” made after she was nominated in late 2016 to take over the top transportation job.
In various ethics agreements and financial disclosures she has filed since last 2016, Ms. Chao had said that stock options awarded during the nearly two years she served on the board at Vulcan would be paid out in cash — ending her financial ties to the company. Instead, those options were paid out last year in stock, which Ms. Chao held onto until this month, meaning she continued to have a stake in the industry.
The Transportation Department placed blame for the controversy on an unnamed accountant to Ms. Chao, who apparently told agency officials that she would receive cash instead of stock.
No conflict of interest here, Chao merely heads the Department of Transportation and Vulcan merely makes money constructing the materials used to build highways. Then there was the business of one of her aides coordinating federal highway grants to the State of Kentucky. What, there’s a problem with that? Of course Kentucky needs new roads, hubby Moscow Mitch has that new aluminum factory, that Manafort’s buddy Oleg Deripaska is bankrolling, to the tune of $200 Million being built. That business venture was handily approved after the Trump administration took Rusal, Deripaska’s firm, off of the U.S. sanctions list. The new plant, which is slated for construction will be the largest new aluminum plant constructed in the U.S. for decades — and Rusal will own 40% of it. Is there a problem with that?
“Rusal, one of the leading global aluminium producers, and Braidy Industries Inc., a U.S. base holding company which owns both Veloxint, an MIT-incubated lightweighting solutions company, and NanoAl, a Northwestern University incubated materials research and technology company, announce an intent to establish a joint project in Ashland, Kentucky, USA to produce flat-rolled aluminium products for the U.S. automotive industry,” according to a company press release. […]
McConnell was among the advocates for lifting sanctions on Rusal, arguing that the deal with Treasury would maintain pressure on Deripaska personally without disrupting global aluminum supplies.
Also on Monday, [this Newsweek article was published in April] the public affairs company Mercury, which was hired by British Lord Gregory Barker to lobby for the oligarch’s companies to be removed from the U.S. sanctions list, filed a letter under the Foreign Agents Registration Act describing how “the Barker plan permanently removed Oleg Deripaska from control” of his companies EN+ and Rusal. Barker is the executive chairman of Rusal and its parent company EN+.
“The Board will be two-thirds/one-third independent of Deripaska, Deripaska will not receive any dividends for as long as he remains subject to sanctions, and the Company and its operations will remain under the scrutiny of U.S. regulators,” the document reads. “The agreement will allow the world’s second largest producer of aluminum to stay out of Russian state or Chinese ownership.”
Still, analysts have expressed concern that Deripaska, who was sanctioned in April 2018 for attempting to meddle in the U.S. elections, may still wield influence over his companies from behind the scenes.
Ya think? And what could possibly go wrong with a Russian oligarch, who meddles in U.S. elections, continuing to do business with the elected Senate majority leader and owning 40% of an aluminum company, built in that leader’s state, which plans to be a key producer of materials for the American auto industry and thus wield a lot of power therein? Hmmm?
No question, McConnell and Chao are the couple to watch. They’ve not only got government grifting locked down, they’ve raised it to an art form.