Allegedly taking advantage of their foreign influence as political leaders in Washington, D.C., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, United States Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, allegedly made their family rich – either directly or indirectly – off China.
“McConnell went from being a Senate leader wary of China to its biggest booster, while Chao parlayed more Chinese cash into turning the Heritage Foundation’s policy toward China and securing a Cabinet post in George W. Bush’s administration,” WND reported. “McConnell and Chao had an average net worth of $3.1 million in 2004. Ten years later, while working only in government, that figure rose to between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.”
Cashing in on China
Through his latest book that is releasing today, Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, investigative reporter Peter Schweizer – who also published Clinton Cash in 2016 to expose how the Bill and Hillary Clinton used their Clinton Foundation to get rich off foreign cash – reveals how McConnell’s and Chao’s political maneuverings to make tens of millions of dollars were made possible by their numerous ties with the communist Chinese government and its business dealings.
In his new piece, the conservative writer, Schweizer, digs up and lays out hard evidence that McConnell – as well as former Vice President Joe Biden – have taken advantage of their positions in Washington to strike business deals yielding hundreds and millions of dollars in profits for their families and Chinese political and business leaders … some at the expense of U.S. security.
“Schweizer argues that China has worked to gain leverage over powerful American politicians by targeting their families with investment opportunities and business deals, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in business to companies run by the families of Messrs. Biden and McConnell,” the Wall Street Journal noted from the book. “Aides to both men strongly disputed the accuracy of Mr. Schweizer’s findings, calling them ‘wild accusations’ without ‘credible sourcing’ and ‘politically motivated hit pieces.’”
Undetected loopholes have apparently made it possible for such covert operations to frequently take place in the nation’s capital for decades, according to Schweizer,
“Lawmakers and government officials are required to disclose information about their financial dealings but not those of their extended families, and Schweizer argues China has tried to exploit that provision,” the Wall Street Journal’s Aruna Viswanatha recounted. “[He] alleges that the families of powerful American politicians are targets of an influence campaign by Beijing.”
Using political positioning to line their pockets has apparently become an art in the nation’s capital for decades.
“Current ethics laws create a zero-accountability zone for the Washington, D.C., political class,” Schweizer, the president of the Government Accountability Institute unveiled in his book.
And they go about their deceptive business operations in a round-about kind of way as a safeguard to job security – in order to ensure scandal-free transactions.
“Rather than risk their careers taking bribes for potentially minuscule rewards, Schweizer points out how today’s politicians are savvier, engaging in what he calls ‘corruption by proxy,’” the New York Post noted. “While politicians and their spouses are often subject to rigid regulations on what gifts they can accept and what sort of business they can conduct, others around them – like their friends or children have no such obstacles. So, while a politician could theoretically wind up in prison for accepting $10,000 for doling out favors, establishing overseas connections that could land your children multi-million-dollar deals is harder to detect, and often legal.”
Personal gain has evidently been the name of the game when it comes to foreign affairs on Capitol Hill for some time.
“Foreign governments and oligarchs like this form of corruption because it gives them private and unfettered gateways to the corridors of Washington power,” Schweizer explained in his new work. “Foreign entities cannot legally make campaign contributions, so using this approach creates an alternative way to curry favor and influence America’s political leaders. Simply camouflaging these transactions as business agreements provides another shield of plausible deniability.”
Shipping U.S. interests's overseas
He pointed to the monetary gains made by America’s current transportation secretary and relatives to make his case.
“As Schweizer tells it, the Chao family fortune derives from the Foremost Group, a shipping company that Chinese native James Chao, a classmate of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin at Jiao Tong University, founded in New York in 1964,” the New York Post explained. “Chao remains Foremost’s chairman today, and his daughters Angela and Christine are the company’s deputy chairwoman and general counsel, respectively. Elaine Chao worked there in the 1970s, and has been quoted as saying, ‘Shipping is our family tradition.’”
Through its China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC) – which has transacted “large volumes of business” with Foremost – the Chinese government is responsible for handing the private Chinese company most of its success, especially since its focus is placed on strengthening the Chinese military. It should also be noted that both James and Angela Chao have sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.
“CCSC is a state-owned defense conglomerate … at the heart of the Chinese government’s military-industrial complex,” Schweizer emphasized. “[While Foremost is an American company,] their ships have been constructed by Chinese government shipyards, and some of their construction financed by the Chinese government.”
However, it was pointed out the crews of Foremost are predominantly Chinese, even though U.S. Transportation Secretary and company founder’s daughter Elaine Chao said differently.
“[Foremost has] ships crewed by Americans are ‘a vital part of our national security,’” Chao said, according to the Post.
A marriage made for China
For more than a quarter century, McConnell and Chao have been exploiting their ties with China to their financial advantage.
“It’s worth noting how both McConnell and Chao, in their roles as high-ranking US officials, have personally interacted with, and then gone considerably soft on, China since their 1993 wedding,” the New York Post’s Larry Getlen indicated. “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. After this meeting, McConnell ‘would increasingly avoid public criticism of China.’ More meetings like it would follow in the years to come.”
Schweizer elaborated on the newlyweds’ ties with the bigwigs in China’s capital.
“As the Chaos and the Chinese government went into business together, the Chaos-McConnells tied their economic fate to the good fortunes of Beijing,” Schweizer wrote. “Were McConnell to critique Beijing aggressively or support policies damaging to Chinese interests, Beijing could severely damage the family’s economic fortunes.”
McConnell’s transformation to become a modern-day champion of China should come as no surprise.
“In the ensuing years, McConnell has loudly defended China in its actions against Hong Kong and Taiwan, even claiming that ‘the United States needed to be ‘ambiguous’ as to whether we would come to the defense of Taiwan if attacked by China,’” Getlen informed. “When Sen. Jesse Helms introduced the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, pledging support for Taiwanese independence, in 1999, it had ‘21 co-sponsors and heavy Republican support. But McConnell was not on the list.’”
Other reports about McConnell and Chao using ties with China to manipulate situations have surfaced both before and well past the turn of the century.
“WND has been reporting these ties, the China-to-Washington money-go-round and even Chao’s influence at the Heritage Foundation when she worked there in the 1990s and again, following her time in the Bush administration, from 2009 through 2012, as a rainmaker who turned the leading conservative think tank into one that had virtually negative to say about Beijing during her time there,” WND noted. “As early as January 2001, when she was first nominated to be Bush’s secretary of labor, WND interviewed noted Chinese dissident Harry Wu who expressed grave reservations about Chang and the influence she would have on the administration’s China policies.”
When Chao was first nominated as Bush’s secretary of Labor, noted Chinese dissident Harry Wu shared his reservations about Chang’s influence on the Bush administration’s foreign policy with China.
“I worry about Elaine Chao’s business relationship with communist China,” Wu told WND in a 2001 interview. “This woman has a significant shipping business through her father.”
And the ties go deeper – and way back into the 1990s.
“In 1994, James Chao, along with his daughter and her husband, McConnell, visited mainland China and met with Jiang. James Chao, along with his daughter, returned to China the next year to take an honorary professorship and presidency at the Shanghai Maritime College,” WND pointed out. “When Jiang visited the White House in 1997, he met privately for about 20 minutes with Chao and McConnell, before an elaborate state dinner for Jiang hosted by President Clinton. The Kentucky senator met again with Jiang the next morning.”
Chao described her communications with Jiang as being healthy and mutually beneficial.
“He was trying to emphasize that the U.S. and China are natural friends, and their futures are intertwined, and that they should try to understand each other,” Chao expressed, according to WND.
And Chao’s advocacy for wanting virtually unlimited trade restrictions on China have also shown through – something that could come under the spotlight soon, especially as President Donald Trump seeks to place stiff tariffs on the communist country with a burgeoning economy.
“She has lobbied for normalized trade with China and has downplayed concerns about China’s growing military threat, espionage campaigns in the U.S. and human-rights abuses,” WND recalled.
Chao’s devotion to making China a close and uninhibited trade partner with the U.S. has come under much scrutiny.
“Wu, a Hoover Institution fellow, criticizes Chao for glossing over the fact that China is and was run by Communist hard-liners who pump proceeds from U.S. trade back into military front companies run by a privileged class,” the independent conservative news website explained. “A prominent human-rights activist, Wu spent about two decades in Chinese prisons for his political views.”
He cannot understand how Bush – and probably Trump today – could place Chao, with her undeniable Chinese ties, in such a position of high influence that can jeopardize America’s economy and national security.
“I’m very surprised Bush would pick her to head labor, especially when most of the profits from trade with China goes into the pockets of socialist leaders, not workers,” Wu said at the time, according to WND.
More ties of the Republican couple were then pointed out.
“Both Chao and McConnell served on the board of the China Foundation, a nonprofit charity devoted to helping develop rural parts of China,” WND continued. “McConnell has been China’s biggest Republican booster in the Senate. Chao sought out John Huang to help raise money for Republican senators in 1989 – beating Bill and Hillary Clinton to the punch in 1992. In 1993, Huang, then head of Lippo Bank, rounded up a coalition of Chinese banks and individuals to sponsor Chao’s visit to Los Angeles as the new head of United Way. Huang gave McConnell $2,000 in illegal donations as part of a foreign money-laundering scheme – one of only two contributions Huang made to Republicans.”
Unconditionally defending China has been commonplace for the influential couple on Capitol Hill.
“Chao criticized the prosecution of Huang in the Chinagate scandal as racially motivated, [and] for his part, McConnell pressured then-Sen. Fred Thompson to drop his investigation into Chinagate,” WND added. “As recently as November 2016, when President Trump nominated Chang for secretary of transportation. WND reported on her relationship with China and other concerns including her deep ties with the anti-coal Bloomberg Foundation, as well as her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Her advocacy for China goes deeper than that.
“When she served the conservative Heritage Foundation as Asian studies adviser, a military analyst who sounded warnings about Chinese threats to U.S. security was shown the door,” WND investigative reporters noted at the time. Chao served at Heritage beginning in 1996 before leaving to become Bush’s labor secretary in 2001. While at Heritage, the think tank opened an office in Hong Kong. Some reports by the ousted Heritage analyst – 16-year veteran Richard Fisher Jr. – were footnoted in the declassified version of the bipartisan Cox Report, which documented Chinese espionage at U.S. defense labs, while warning of China’s goal of modernizing the People’s Liberation Army to project power past the mainland’s waters, targeting U.S. allies like Taiwan and even the U.S.”
A congressional aide who served with fisher on matters pertaining to China noted Chao’s machinations to defend China.
“Elaine Chao was part of the deal that got Rick Fisher fired from Heritage,” the aide told WND. “She pushed him out not because of free-trade issues, but because he raised national security concerns over China.”
An insider with the Heritage Foundation corroborated the congressional aide’s account.
“She was not supportive of any of his writings on the Chinese military,” the informant explained, according to WND.
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