90 Pounds of Cocaine Seized Aboard Cargo Ship in Colombia Owned by Mitch McConnell’s In-Laws

Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Kentucky

Sen. Mitch McConnell

By Elaine Magliaro

Lee Fang of The Nation reported in late October that a ship operated by the Foremost Maritime Corporation–a company owned by Mitch McConnell’s wife’s family–was stopped and searched before it departed from Colombia. Fang said that Colombian Coast Guard agents found 90 pounds of cocaine onboard the ship. He noted that an investigation was ongoing.

John Vibes (The Free Thought Project):

The drugs were found on the Ping May, which is a vessel operated by the Foremost Maritime Corporation, a company owned by Mitch McConnell’s in-laws, the Chao family. This connection is not only relevant because of the family connection, but also because the Chao family has often made large donations to McConnell’s campaigns.

Lee Fang said that “Foremost has played a pivotal role in McConnell’s life, bestowing the senator with most of his personal wealth and generating thousands in donations to his campaign committees…” Fang added that “the drug bust went unnoticed in Kentucky…” He said one reason why the story may not have made headlines was because, “like many international shipping companies, Chao’s firm is shrouded from public view, concealing its identity and limiting its legal liability through an array of tax shelters and foreign registrations. Registered through a limited liability company in the Marshall Islands, the Ping May flies the Liberian flag.”

Fang said that Senator McConnell’s ties to the Chao family “go back to the late 1980s, when James Chao began donating to the senator.” Later, in 1993, McConnell married James Chao’s daughter, Elaine Chao, “a Republican activist and former Reagan administration official who would later serve as secretary of labor in the George W. Bush cabinet.” According to Fang, James Chao emigrated to the United States from Taiwan–and, after settling in New York, founded the Foremost Maritime Corporation. Fang said, “The company has grown significantly over the years, from acting as maritime agent during the Vietnam War to controlling a fleet of approximately sixteen dry-bulk cargo ships in operation today.”

Elaine Chao

Elaine Chao


Foremost acts as a shipping agent, purchasing vessels made primarily in China and coordinating shipment of commodities. Records reviewed by The Nation reveal that Foremost transports corn, chemicals and other goods to cities throughout the world. The company has offices in New York and Hong Kong.

Fang said that the recent seizure of cocaine that was discovered on the Ping May “came as authorities in Colombia have stepped up anti-drug trafficking enforcement in the region.” Luis Gonzales, an official with the Colombian Coast Guard in Santa Marta, told The Nation “that the Ping May’s crew were questioned as part of an ongoing investigation, but that no charges have yet been filed. His team found the cocaine in forty separate packages.”

Fang reported that McConnell “has benefitted in many ways from his relationship with his in-laws.” He said the Senator’s “personal wealth grew seven-fold over the last ten years thanks in large part to a gift given to him and his wife in 2008 from James Chao worth between $5 million and $25 million (Senate ethics forms require personal finance disclosures in ranges of amounts, rather than specific figures).” Fang noted that the generous “gift helped the McConnells after their stock portfolio dipped in the wake of the financial crisis that year, and ensured they could pay off more than $100,000 in mortgage debt on their Washington home.” Fang added that thanks to James Chao’s generous gift, McConnell is now “one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, with a net worth averaging around $22.8 million, according to The Washington Post’s review of his financial disclosures.”

According to Fang, requests for comments about the Ping May drug incident have gone unanswered. Fang pointed out that that McConnell has positioned himself as a politician who has been tough on drugs. He said, that in 1996, “McConnell was the sole sponsor of the Enhanced Marijuana Penalties Act, a bill to increase the mandatory minimum sentencing for those caught with certain amounts of marijuana. A press release noted that his bill would make “penalties for selling marijuana comparable to those for selling heroin and cocaine.” Fang continued, “In recent weeks, McConnell has touted his role in calling for more federal money to be used for drug enforcement.”


Mitch McConnell’s Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company
After drugs were found aboard the Ping May, a vessel owned by his wife’s family’s company, Colombian authorities are investigating. (The Nation)

90 Pounds Of Cocaine Found On Cargo Ship Owned By Anti-Drug Senator’s Family (The Free Thought Project)

Mitch McConnell’s in-laws & multi-million$ benefactors had 90lbs/40kg of cocaine on board their ship (Daily Kos)



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7 Responses to 90 Pounds of Cocaine Seized Aboard Cargo Ship in Colombia Owned by Mitch McConnell’s In-Laws

  1. blouise17 says:

    Time just did a very complimentary article on Mitch’s wife and not one word about the family’s drug smuggling problems. But Time did write ….Chao is proud of her family’s history.

  2. bigfatmike says:

    Well, I guess that puts to rest the canard that GOP leadership is stogy and out of touch.

  3. pete says:

    I can’t help it. I keep getting this vision of Mitch standing there with that little turtle voice of his saying “say hello to my little friend”.

  4. bron98 says:

    come on, anyone could have planted those drugs.

    My guess is that it was one of the crew members trying to earn some extra money.

    Lee Fang sounds like the name of a Chicom spy. So I think this is a smear story to defame McConnell and his anti-communist Chinese wife by association. Chao is probably involved in organizations trying to free China from the grip of scientific socialism.

    Where is Fu Manchu when the commies need him?

  5. Elaine M. says:


    Lee Fang is a respected investigative journalist. Make fun of his name all you want. It doesn’t help to advance your argument. I wonder if you’d feel the same if the story was about a Democratic member of Congress.

  6. bron98 says:


    If you told me Harry Reid owned that ship, I would say the same thing.

    Cargo ships are very big and crews are composed of hard men, so I think it quite likely that if you checked every ship coming out of South America, you would find drugs in some amount. Most likely brought on board by crew members.

    When Gordan Chang writes a story about this, I will believe him.

  7. “trying to free China from the grip of scientific socialism.”

    I’m sure that will be news to the Chinese since they are practicing state capitalism.

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