American Oversight today sued the Departments of Energy, Transportation, and State for records of communications between officials and the office or campaign of Sen. Mitch McConnell.
We’ve already uncovered a number of documents that showed requests from McConnell’s home state of Kentucky were afforded a separate channel in the office of his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. And in October 2019, based on documents American Oversight obtained, Politico reported that Chao “met with officials from Kentucky … vastly more often than those from any other state,” and that several of those meetings were requested by McConnell’s office. McConnell’s re-election campaign tweeted about the Politico story the next day, seemingly boasting about the majority leader’s influence.
Today’s lawsuit, filed after the three agencies failed to provide documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, aims to shed light on the political influence of those connected to McConnell’s staff or his re-election efforts. Besides Chao, we’re also seeking communications between McConnell’s office or campaign and the offices of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft, and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Amid ongoing speculation about his future political career, Pompeo only recently closed the door on a Senate bid in Kansas. Press reporting suggests that Pompeo had been urged by McConnell to consider running for the seat. But questions about Pompeo’s future political aspirations have persisted. News this week emerged that Pompeo may have held an undisclosed meeting with a top Republican donor during a visit to Florida, and separate reporting indicates Pompeo and McConnell “speak weekly on a range of national security issues.” Craft, originally from Kentucky, is a longtime GOP fundraiser, including for McConnell.
At the Department of Energy, McConnell and Perry reportedly attended events together, with McConnell a vocal supporter of the Trump administration’s push to decrease regulations on the coal industry and coal power plants, a position he shares with Perry.
“Trump grabs all the headlines, but if you look at the day-to-day policy coming out of Washington, this is functionally the McConnell administration, not the Trump administration,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Mitch McConnell kept Donald Trump in office earlier this month because he’s continuing to get everything he wants from Trump’s appointees, and as we’ve already seen at the Department of Transportation, that kind of influence leaves a paper trail that the public has a right to see.”
Part of Investigation: