Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute and senior contributor at Breitbart News, warned of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) financial ties to China in a Monday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host Dylan Gwinn.
Schweizer highlighted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to McConnell, as illustrative of what he described as widespread political conflicts of interest between sitting American officials and foreign governments.
“The Chao family are deeply embedded commercially and financially with the Chinese government,” explained Schweizer. “The Chinese government essentially set them up in the shipping business. Their ships — these are large cargo ships that transport a large amount of goods around the Pacific.”
Schweizer added, “The Chinese government is financing the building of these ships for the Chao family business. They provide crews for these chips, and they provide contracts to ship steel and other products around the Pacific.”
The Foremost Group is a shipping business founded by James Chao, Elaine Chao’s father. The Chao family business primarily revolves around China, necessitating “deep ties to the economic and political elite in China,” according to a Sunday-published New York Times report.
“[The Chao family’s shipping business] started out in the early 1990s with just a couple of vessels, a couple of large cargo ships,” said Schweizer. “They now have, by some estimates, 35 or 36, many of those built by the Chinese government. The estimates are that hundreds of millions of dollars in financing is done by the Chinese to build these ships, and that they give them preferential treatment.”
Schweizer explained, “Business in China is done with a political purpose. The China State Shipbuilding Corporation is controlled by the government, by the Communist Party, and they do business deals with people in the West with the expectation that they will get things in return.”
Schweizer stated, “That’s why it’s not just a story of a political family getting wealthy off of a foreign government. It is a very serious question about the decisions that are being made by Elaine Chao as the transportation secretary, but also as Mitch McConnell is the Senate majority leader. The suggestion here is that the Chinese government hopes that by striking these deals with the Chao family over the years and making them wealthy, that they are going to, in a sense, encourage Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell to make decisions that are favorable to them. That’s what I think the concern is here, and I think on a whole host of issues, there seems to be at least circumstantial evidence that they have been very pro-China in their policy prescriptions.”
“The fact that [Mitch McConnell’s] family and Elaine Chao’s family is doing massive deals with the Chinese government, there is no disclosure requirements, and I think that’s one of the great problems of Washington today, that things that are not having to be disclosed by the political class,” assessed Schweizer.
It is “impossible to know how much money [the Chao family] made” from its business with the Chinese state, noted Schweizer, because disclosure regulations for politicians — in this case Mitch McConnell — do not require acknowledgment of financial relationships with foreign governments.
Schweizer called on the Trump administration to update disclosure regulations to mandate acknowledgement of financial ties to foreign governments for both politicians and officials. The absence of such disclosure regulations, he added, undermines America’s representative government. “We lose representative government as we know it, because the people they are going to listen are those foreign entities, not the voters back in their districts.”
Schweizer went on, “What you have in the case of the Chao family is a family that’s deeply embedded with the Chinese government. … Angela Chao, her sister, still sits on the board of the Bank of China. She also sits on the board of an entity that was connected to the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, which is, by the way, one of the largest military contractors in Beijing. This is a company that is essentially helping to build the Chinese navy which wants to challenge the United States for naval supremacy by 2030.”
“The way [the Chinese Government is] going to leverage their position in the United States is by striking deals with the family members of American politicians,” explained Schweizer. “They don’t care if they’re Democrats or Republicans. They firmly believe — and I think there’s evidence to support this — that if they give sweetheart deals to the family members of American politicians, they will get favorable treatment from those politicians, and that’s why this stuff needs to be disclosed and come out.”
Concerns over conflicts of interest among politicians and officials regarding Chinse state interests must be addressed, determined Schweizer, particularly in light of China as a geopolitical threat to America’s global position and value system.
“The Obama administration executed something called the strategic pivot, which was saying around 2010, 2011, the major military challenge the United States faces going forward is not coming from Europe,” recalled Schweizer. “It’s coming from Asia, specifically from China, and we spend a large portion of our military budget, specifically, to contain a rising Chinese military.”
Schweizer continued, “The Chinese navy has said by 2030 they expect to achieve strategic parity with the United States. Imagine the implication of that.” It is “absurd” to dismiss concerns over Mitch McConnell’s and Elaine Chao’s financial ties to the Chinese government, he estimated.
“The people in the United States that are developing our strategy to counter China [and] that are passing legislation to deal with the China threat [are] benefiting financially from the Chinese government while they’re making these decisions,” warned Schweizer. “It’s absurd, and I can’t think of an example in American history where anybody would have believed that this is acceptable, whether this was during war-time, peacetime, the Cold War, anytime. It’s a very basic question. If we are concerned in this country that lobbyists are influencing our policymakers, or that a $5,000 political contribution might persuade our lawmakers, can we not at least agree that major — in some cases $100,000,000-plus deals — are going to influence them, too? Otherwise, it should be all bets are off. We should allow them to do deals with whoever they want to without any hindrance, because if this doesn’t matter, nothing matters.”
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