GOP lawmaker's husband 'discussed campaign strategies' with Chinese nationals in 2017


Rep. Michelle Steel is calling for companies to boycott the Beijing Olympics, but she's not talking about her own family's dubious ties to China.

On Dec. 6, Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) sent a letter to the chief executive officers of Coca-Cola, Nike, Airbnb, and more than a dozen other major corporate sponsors of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are set to kick off in February in Beijing, pressuring them to use their advertising platform to shine a light on the Chinese Communist Party's alleged human rights abuses.

In the letter, Steel asks the corporate sponsors "on behalf of democracy and freedom around the world" to condemn "the ongoing human rights violations and abuses currently happening across China at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party." She then lists some of the alleged abuses, including "[f]orced sterilizations, labor camps and murder ... against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities."

Steel is hardly the first politician to take a stance against China ahead of the Winter Olympics. Last week, President Joe Biden said the United States is planning a "diplomatic boycott" of the Olympics, meaning that it won't be sending any officials to attend the games, though athletes representing the United States will still participate.

But while Steel's letter calls on U.S.-based corporate sponsors of the games to follow the president's lead and use their platforms to make a moral statement, the letter neglects to mention her family's own dubious ties to China: Most prominently, Steel's husband, Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member from California and a donor to the congresswoman's 2020 campaign, allegedly acted as a liaison between four Chinese foreign nationals and GOP leaders.

According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, in May of 2017, Shawn Steel brought three Chinese nationals as his guests to an invitation-only gathering "where GOP leaders discussed campaign strategies and other issues."

Federal election rules strictly prohibit foreign nationals from participation "in decisions involving election-related activities."

Among Steel's guests at the May 2017 event was David Tian Wang, a right-wing political organizer who founded the group Chinese Americans for Trump and, according to the Journal report, "had long associations with people and groups in California supported by China's government."

Along with Wang was Zhao Gang, identified by the Journal as a "researcher for China's Ministry of Science and Technology focused on national security, tech diplomacy and other issues." Tang Ben, a former executive committee member for a group that advises China on security issues, was also a guest of Steel, along with Li Su, "a government-connected businessman who has worked closely with a well-known former associate of China's vice president," according to the Journal.

At least two of Steel's guests at that event also directly donated to support the 2016 presidential election campaign of Donald Trump, and three of Steel's guests allegedly met Trump and other GOP leaders and reported their impressions back to Chinese officials.

In response to the Journal's reporting, Steel said he never collected any funds from his guests at the 2017 event, but he didn't answer any questions as to why he brought them.

The American Independent Foundation reached out to Rep. Michelle Steel about her husband's connections to the Chinese government but has not received any comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.