The #1 New York Times bestselling book Secret Empires by Government Accountability Institute President and Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer is causing major ethics headaches for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Multiple establishment media outlets have now confirmed the accuracy of Schweizer’s reporting about McConnell and Chao’s deep financial ties to China.
Here, then, are seven Secret Empires McConnell-Chao facts mainstream media outlets have verified.
1. CONFIRMED: Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s sister, Angela Chao, currently sits on the board of directors of the Communist Chinese government’s Bank of China
The Wall Street Journal verified the Secret Empires revelation that Elaine Chao’s sister–who is Mitch McConnell’s sister-in-law–currently sits on the board of directors of the state-owned Bank of China. “Mr. Schweizer also points to the appointment of Ms. Chao’s sister, Angela Chao, to the board of state-owned Bank of China, 10 days after the 2016 election,” reported the Journal.
The Bank of China’s own website lists Angela Chao as a board member.
2. CONFIRMED: Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao received $5 million to $25 million from her father, James Chao, whose shipping company Foremost Group does massive deals with the Chinese government.
The New York Post, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, The Hill, and others have all confirmed that James Chao, Elaine Chao’s father and Mitch McConnell’s father-in-law, gave the Washington power couple a “gift” (that’s the way it was recorded on McConnell’s financial disclosure forms) of between $5 to $25 million in 2008. According to the Post, the “gift” had a major impact on the couple’s net worth: “In 2004, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, current U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had an average net worth of $3.1 million. Ten years later, that number had increased to somewhere between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.”
Beginning in 2007, “just as the U.S. Senate was taking up sensitive legislation concerning China,” Schweizer reports that the Chinese government’s CSSC Holdings, Ltd.—the financial arm of the Chinese government’s military contractor CSSC—named James Chao to its board. CSSC Holdings also added Elaine Chao’s sister Angela Chao to its board as well.
“The fact that both the father-in-law and sister-in-law of Senator McConnell sat on the board of CSSC Holdings is highly unusual, to say the least,” writes Schweizer. “One could say it is unprecedented in American political history. In general, CSSC is a sensitive, critical asset of the Chinese government and operates under a veil of privacy and secrecy.”
3. CONFIRMED: Since Elaine Chao became Transportation Secretary, her family’s company Foremost Group has ordered 10 massive cargo ships from the Communist Chinese government’s China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC).
As Peter Schweizer and Jacob McLeod reported, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) in-laws have ordered 10 massive cargo ships from the Chinese government since the senator’s wife Elaine Chao became Secretary of Transportation. Indeed, Politico confirmed that Foremost Group “now appears to be engaging in a brisk period of expansion. Before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, it had 23 registered ships but since then has added 10 — more than a 40 percent increase in capacity — according to IHS Global ship registry information.”
4. CONFIRMED: Since becoming U.S. Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao and her father, James Chao, have appeared in at least a dozen Chinese media interviews, including foreign interviews that featured the Department of Transportation symbol and her father’s book.
As Politico revealed on Monday:
In at least a dozen interviews with Chinese and Chinese-American media outlets since her nomination, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has appeared beside her shipping magnate father, whose company carries goods between the United States and Asia, and who has given Chao and her husband at least $5 million in the past 10 years.
In many of the videos, James Chao is introduced as founder and chairman of the Foremost Group shipping company, and, in discussing a 2016 biography about his life, speaks proudly of his daughter’s role as secretary of transportation, as she sits beaming by his side.
One interview with New China Press published on April 12, 2017, features the pair sitting in what appears to be the Department of Transportation, with DOT flags in view behind the interviewer. Long portions of the interview are in Chinese, with James Chao talking about his life story, with a copy of his biography on the screen, and Elaine Chao extolling her father’s success story as “lifting the status of Asian-Americans in America.”
The Hill also noted that “In at least one other interview appearance, the Transportation Department flag and the state flag of Kentucky, the state Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) represents, both appear in the background.”
5. CONFIRMED: James Chao and his daughter Angela Chao sat on the board of one of the Communist Chinese government’s largest military contractors.
Secret Empires provides painstaking detail of Foremost Group’s involvement with the state-owned China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and its subsidiary CSSC Holdings. As the New York Post confirms, “The main goal of the CSSC is to strengthen the Chinese military. James and Angela Chao have both sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.”
6. CONFIRMED: Videos uncovered by Politico reveal James Chao on camera with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao signaling “guanxi”—the Chinese concept of personal power due to relationships.
According to Politico: “One interview with New China Press published on April 12, 2017, features the pair sitting in what appears to be the Department of Transportation, with DOT flags in view behind the interviewer. Long portions of the interview are in Chinese, with James Chao talking about his life story, with a copy of his biography on the screen, and Elaine Chao extolling her father’s success story as “lifting the status of Asian-Americans in America.”
Experts say Chinese business is all about projecting hierarchical power relationships (“guanxi”) to telegraph and leverage connections and status. Diane Wei Liang, bestselling author and expert on Chinese culture, business, and politics, told Politico: “Doing business in China requires a lot of connections. Political connections are normally considered as real advantages for business people. Any business that can demonstrate these kinds of connections sends a very positive message as to how successful the business is and how effective it would be to work with them.”
In the Chaos’ interview with New China Press, shipping magnate James Chao says he traveled aboard Air Force One, talked “business” with President Trump, and is “very, very lucky” to have a special pin (which he wore on his jacket) signifying that he is a guest of the president.
As New York magazine reported on Monday, “in many of the videos James Chao brags about his daughter’s government work and contacts. In one video he describes talking with Trump on Air Force One. ‘The president spent several minutes with me,’ he said. ‘We were talking about business.’”
7. CONFIRMED: Mitch McConnell and James Chao traveled to China as guests of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and met with former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, a former classmate of Chao’s.
As the New York Post confirmed in its report about Secret Empires, “When Senator McConnell — who took hardline positions against China prior to his marriage — met with high-ranking Chinese officials in 1994, it was not in his capacity as senator, but via a personal invitation from the CSSC arranged by James Chao. McConnell met with Zemin, then the country’s president, and vice-premiere Li Lanqing.”
Secret Empires is Peter Schweizer’s fifth consecutive New York Times bestselling investigative book.