Elaine Chao

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Zhào Xiaolán)

Elaine Chao
Official portrait, 2019
18th United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 31, 2017 – January 11, 2021
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyJeffrey A. Rosen
Steven G. Bradbury (acting)
Preceded byAnthony Foxx
Succeeded byPete Buttigieg
24th United States Secretary of Labor
In office
January 29, 2001 – January 20, 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byAlexis Herman
Succeeded byHilda Solis
12th Director of the Peace Corps
In office
October 8, 1991 – November 13, 1992
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byPaul Coverdell
Succeeded byCarol Bellamy
4th United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation
In office
April 19, 1989 – October 18, 1991[1]
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byMimi Weyforth Dawson
Succeeded byJames B. Busey IV
Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission
In office
April 29, 1988 – April 19, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byEdward Hickey
Succeeded byJames J. Carey
Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission
In office
April 29, 1988 – April 19, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byEdward Hickey
Succeeded byMing Hsu
Personal details
Elaine Lan Chao

(1953-03-26) March 26, 1953 (age 70)
Da'an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1993)
Parent(s)James S. C. Chao
Ruth Mulan Chu
Residence(s)Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
EducationMount Holyoke College (BA)
Harvard University (MBA)
  • Businesswoman
  • economist
  • banker
  • politician
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese趙小蘭
Simplified Chinese赵小兰

Elaine Lan Chao (born March 26, 1953) is an American businesswoman and former government official who served as United States secretary of labor in the administration of George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009 and as United States secretary of transportation in the administration of Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021. A member of the Republican Party, Chao was the first Asian Pacific American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet or as secretary of transportation.[3][4]

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chao immigrated to the United States when she was eight years old. Her father founded the Foremost Group, an American shipping company based in New York. Chao was raised in Queens, New York, and on Long Island, and received degrees from Mount Holyoke College and Harvard Business School. She worked for financial institutions before being appointed to senior positions in the Department of Transportation under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, including Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission (1988–1989) and Deputy Secretary of Transportation (1989–1991). She served as Director of the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1992 and as president of the United Way of America from 1993 to 1996. When not in government, Chao has served on several Fortune 500 and nonprofit boards of directors, including the electric charger network provider ChargePoint since 2021.[5][6] She is married to Senator Mitch McConnell and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Early life and education[edit]

Chao in Syosset High School's yearbook

Elaine Chao was born in Taipei, Taiwan, on March 26, 1953, and immigrated to the United States when she was eight years old. She is the eldest of six daughters of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, a historian from an Anhui family, and James S. C. Chao, who began his career as a merchant mariner and in 1964 founded the shipping company Foremost Maritime Corporation in New York City, which developed into the Foremost Group. In 1961, at the age of 8, Chao came to the United States on a 37-day freight ship journey along with her mother and two younger sisters. Her father had arrived in New York three years earlier and sent money home until the rest of the family could join him in the United States.[7][8][9]

Chao described her early life in America as a typical immigrant story, noting that "everything was foreign to us: the culture, people, language, traditions, and even the food."[10] She spoke no English upon her arrival.[11] Her father "worked three jobs" to support the family and the then-five family members lived in a one-bedroom apartment.[10]

Chao attended Tsai Hsing Elementary School in Taiwan for kindergarten and first grade.[7][12] She attended Syosset High School in Syosset, New York, in Nassau County on Long Island[13] and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen at the age of 19.[14]

Chao received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. In the second semester of her junior year, she studied money and banking at Dartmouth College. She received an MBA degree from Harvard Business School.


Early career[edit]

Before entering public service, Chao was a vice president for syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group in San Francisco, and she was an international banker at Citicorp in New York.[15] She was granted a White House Fellowship during the Reagan Administration.[16]

Chao in 2005

In 1986, Chao became Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation. From 1988 to 1989, she served as Chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission.[17] In 1989, then-president George H.W. Bush nominated Chao to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation; she served from 1989 to 1991.[18] From 1991 to 1992, she was the Director of the Peace Corps.[17] She was the first Asian Pacific American to serve in any of these positions. She expanded the Peace Corps' presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by establishing the first Peace Corps programs in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, including the first Peace Corps programs in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Russia.[19][20]

Between Bush administrations[edit]

Following her service in President George H.W. Bush's administration, Chao worked from 1992 to 1996 as president and CEO of United Way of America.[21][22] She was the first Asian Pacific American to hold that role. She is credited with returning credibility and public trust to the organization after a financial mismanagement scandal involving former president William Aramony.[23] From 1996 until her appointment as Secretary of Labor, Chao worked at a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.[24] She was also a board member of the Independent Women's Forum.[25] She later returned to think tanks after leaving the government in January 2009.[26]

Chao delivered a speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention.[27]

U.S. Secretary of Labor (2001–2009)[edit]

Official Secretary of Labor photo

Chao was the only cabinet member in the George W. Bush administration to serve for the entirety of his eight years.[28] She was also the longest-serving Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins, who served from 1933 to 1945 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[29] Chao was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for her appointment as Secretary of Labor.[30] Of Chao's staff, Victoria Lipnic, Assistant Secretary for Employment Standards Administration, later became Member, EEOC and acting chair.

In 2004, the department issued revisions of the white-collar overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.[31]

Union disclosure requirements[edit]

In 2002, a major West Coast ports dispute costing the U.S. economy nearly $1 billion daily was resolved when the Bush administration obtained a national emergency injunction against both the employers and the union under the Taft–Hartley Act for the first time since 1971.[32] Led by Chao, in 2003, for the first time in more than 40 years, the department updated the labor union financial disclosure regulations under the Landrum–Griffin Act of 1959, which created more extensive disclosure requirements for union-sponsored pension plans and other trusts to prevent embezzlement or other financial mismanagement.[33]

Response to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina[edit]

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Chao's Department of Labor disbursed grants to provide temporary jobs to assist in cleanup and restoration efforts in New York, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's monitoring of health and safety of cleanup work being performed at the disaster sites including lower Manhattan. The department also provided unemployment insurance and income support to those who lost their jobs in the aftermath of September 11.[34][35][36]

Following the 2005 hurricane season, which included hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the Labor Department disbursed nearly $380 million in grants to assist with cleanup work and provide benefits and services to those displaced by the storms. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration and other agencies deployed personnel to the region to provide safety training and uphold workers' rights. Chao set up an emergency response hotline dedicated to the Gulf Coast region for people seeking benefits and worker protection information.[35][37]

Government Accountability Office reports[edit]

After analyzing 70,000 closed case files from 2005 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Department's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) inadequately investigated complaints from low- and minimum-wage workers alleging that employers failed to pay the federal minimum wage, required overtime, and failed to issue a last paycheck.[38][39] The Department of Labor responded that the GAO investigation focused on individual complaints while the department remained focused on resolving complex and multi-employee complaints; from 1997 to 2007 the annual number of employees receiving back wages as a result of DOL action almost doubled and the dollar amount of back wages paid more than doubled.[40] The Washington Post echoed that Chao's department was criticized by some for "walking away from its regulatory function" but also praised by others for providing "compliance assistance" and "helping companies abide by the law" rather than "punitive enforcement that … stifles economic growth."[41]

A 2008 Government Accountability Office report noted that the Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate numbers which understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms during Chao's tenure, which may have affected 22 employees at the department.[42][43]

Mining regulation[edit]

Chao and the Bush administration proposed quadrupling the fines imposed against mining corporations for mine safety breaches and sued mine operators for failing to maintain safe working conditions.[44] A 2007 report by the department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that mine safety regulators did not conduct federally required inspections at more than one in seven of the country's 731 underground coal mines in 2006, and that the number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47 in that year.[45][41][46] The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) "missed 147 inspections at 107 mines employing a total of 7,500 workers".[45]

Mining disasters in 2006 and 2007 included West Virginia's Sago Mine explosion, which killed 12 in January 2006;[45] West Virginia's Alma Mine fire, which killed two in January 2006;[47] the Darby Mine No. 1 explosion in Kentucky, where five miners died in May 2006;[45] and the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse in Utah, which killed six workers and three rescuers in August 2007.[45] Immediately following the Sago mine disaster, Secretary Chao vowed to "take the necessary steps to ensure that this never happens again".[48]

In 2010, the widows of the two men killed in the Alma Mine fire sued the federal government for wrongful death, citing lack of inspections, failure to act against violations, and conflicts of interest.[49][50] "MSHA's review of the fire acknowledged significant lapses by inspectors, supervisors and district managers" at the mine but the agency did not admit liability for the negligent inspections.[51][52] In 2013, the appeals court ruled that MSHA can be held liable "when a negligent inspection results in the wrongful death of a coal miner".[52] The suit was settled in 2014; MSHA also agreed to develop a training course on preventing fires in underground mines.[50][52]

Workplace safety[edit]

During her tenure, the Department of Labor achieved "record low worker injury, illness and fatality rates; record back wages recovered; [and] record monetary recoveries for workers’ pension plans".[53] A 2009 internal audit appraising an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) initiative focusing on problematic workplaces for the past six years stated that employees had failed to gather needed data, conducted uneven inspections and enforcement, and failed to discern repeat fatalities because records misspelled the companies' names or failed to notice when two subsidiaries with the same owner were involved; it also noted that after rules changes in January 2008 the number of targeted companies declined by almost half.[54]

Post-Bush administration (2009–2017)[edit]

In 2009, Chao resumed her previous role at a think tank,[26] and she contributed to Fox News and other media outlets.[55]

She also served as a director on a number of corporate and non-profit boards,[15][56] including the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Wells Fargo,[57] New York–Presbyterian Hospital, News Corp, Dole Food Company,[58] and Protective Life Corporation.[59][60][61] According to financial disclosure forms, Chao was slated to receive $1–5 million as compensation for her service on the board of Wells Fargo.[62] In June 2011, she was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.[63]

In January 2015, she resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which she had joined in 2012,[64] because of its plans to significantly increase support for the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" initiative.[65]

In February 2017, the Associated Press reported that Chao was paid by a speaker's bureau to give a speech regarding women's empowerment to an organization later found to be linked to the People's Mujahedin of Iran (aka Mojahedin-e Khalq or MEK), a group exiled from Iran after actions in the 1970s against the Shah of Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini. Similar speeches were delivered by former Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General James T. Conway, former National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, former CIA Directors Porter Goss and James Woolsey, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Governors Howard Dean of Vermont and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.[66][67]

U.S. Secretary of Transportation (2017–2021)[edit]

Chao at her confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Transportation

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump announced on November 29, 2016, that he would nominate Chao to be Secretary of Transportation.[18] The U.S. Senate confirmed Chao on January 31, 2017, by a vote of 93–6, with her husband, then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, abstaining.[68][69]

As Secretary of Transportation, Chao led the presidential delegation to the enthronement ceremony for Japanese emperor Naruhito.[70] She led the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo.[71]

Resignation following January 6

On January 7, 2021, the day after the January 6 United States Capitol attack, Chao submitted her resignation effective January 11, 2021. She was then the highest-ranking member of the administration to resign due to the riots and the first cabinet officer to do so; her resignation cited the "traumatic and entirely avoidable" violence and stated that it "deeply troubled" her.[72][73]

Drone technology[edit]

In 2017, Chao announced the establishment of a pilot program to test and evaluate the integration of civil and public drone operations into the airspace system.[74] In 2018 ten applicants were selected to participate in the project.[75] In 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an air carrier and operator certificate to UPS Flight Forward for drone deliveries to a hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.[76] In December 2019, after multiple reports in Colorado and Nebraska of unidentified objects flying in formation at night over several remote rural counties, the FAA proposed a new rule that would require drones to be remotely identifiable.[77]

COVID-19 responses[edit]

In May 2020, following the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and related changes to travel, Chao sternly warned airlines to follow their published ticket refund procedures, as well as DOT regulations, in light of high demand for travel changes.[78] She demanded airlines provide cash refunds (as opposed to vouchers) when required by law, and urged them to provide cash refunds as broadly as possible.[78]

Chao later announced the disbursement of $1.2 billion in grants to airports to maintain readiness for when passenger travel returned. The funds were distributed to 405 airports for infrastructure and safety improvements, such as improved runway lighting.[79] Eight tribal governments were also awarded separate transportation funds to maintain infrastructure during COVID.[80]

Chao also worked to permit truckers to deliver essential goods to New York City, which had been attempting to impose a 14-day quarantine on out-of-state truckers bringing goods into the city. The city dropped the requirement following federal government pressure.[81] Her department also worked with state governments to maintain access to highway rest areas, including permitting food trucks to provide hot food to truckers and travelers.

The CARES Act enabled the Department of Transportation to make $114 billion of federal aid available for the transportation sector.  The largest allocation was $25 billion to support local public transit systems, of which $22.7 billion was dedicated to large and small urban areas and the remaining $2.2 billion for rural areas. The Act also made available $10 billion for grants to commercial and general aviation airports for capital expenditures, operating expenses such as payroll and utilities, and debt payments; and a $1.02 billion allocation for grants to Amtrak to cover lost revenues, buy fuel and construction materials, and maintain its route network. The CARES Act also enabled the department to provide assistance to the aviation sector through loans and loan guarantees and grants for worker and contractor pay and benefits.[82]

Other proposals[edit]

In March 2019, Chao announced the formation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, an internal Department of Transportation group for identifying "jurisdictional and regulatory gaps" when considering new transportation technologies.[83] In April 2019, the FAA released proposed new regulations to modernize the rules for commercial space flight launches and reentries. At a congressional hearing in July 2019, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation criticized the proposal as not delivering on its stated goals.[84]

In October 2019, Chao launched the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative, intended to improve rural transportation infrastructure.  It sought to achieve this goal by developing tools and information, aggregating DOT resources, and providing technical assistance. The program is intended to consider the unique needs of rural transportation networks to meet national goals of safety, mobility, and economic competitiveness.[85]


After her resignation in January 2021 in protest over the January 6 United States Capitol attack, President Trump referred to Chao using a racial slur and labeled the Taiwan-born US citizen as a "China lover."[86] The slur was immediately condemned by Republican, Democratic, Asian-American and other community leaders including the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.[87][88] Trump also referred to Chao as "crazy."[89][90]

President Trump has also accused her of enriching the couple through her family's U.S. shipping company's ties to China, which has been called  "unfounded."

In 2013, a PAC tweeted about Mitch McConnell's "Chinese wife" and alleged that she is why "your job moved to China." The tweets were removed following an investigation by NPR that noted Chao was a U.S. citizen, was born in Taiwan, and that the PAC had failed to file required disclosures.[91] A similar message by a Kentucky Democrat in 2014 claimed that Chao "isn't from KY [Kentucky], she is Asian." An apology was issued by the Kentucky Democratic Party.[92] In 2021 Chao spoke publicly against incidents of anti-Asian harassment.

During her tenure as Transportation Secretary in the Trump administration, the Transportation Department's inspector general wrote a report with numerous instances where Chao used her office to promote her family's shipping business, but those investigators made no formal finding of ethics violations, nor did prosecutors decide to launch a potential criminal case.[93][94]

An October 2018 Politico analysis found that Chao had more than 290 hours of appointments which were labelled as "private" during working hours on working days in the first 14 months of her tenure as Secretary of Transportation, which former Department of Transportation officials described as unusual. DoT officials stated that the "private" labeling existed to help ensure Chao's security.[95]

During Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign in 2020, his Democratic opponent Amy McGrath accused McConnell of making "millions from China." The Washington Post called these claims "spurious" and rated them "three Pinocchios" out of a possible four.[96]

As Secretary of Transportation, Chao appeared in at least a dozen interviews with her 96-year-old father, James, a shipping magnate.[97] The Transportation Department's inspector general cited numerous instances where Chao's office helped promote her family's shipping business.[98] The inspector general asked the Trump administration's Justice Department in December 2020 to consider a criminal investigation into Chao, but the DOJ denied the request.[98] Some media outlets said the appearances raised ethical concerns, as public officials are prohibited from using their office to profit others or themselves.[97] Federal disclosures cited by The New York Times revealed a gift to Chao and her husband from Chao's father valued between $5 million and $25 million.[99] Critics have claimed that the company, which her American-born sister runs, has ties to China.[99] From January 2018 to April 2019, 72% of the total tonnage of chartered cargo shipped by Foremost was shipped to and from China, as directed by its clients.[99]

The US Department of Transportation reportedly sought to cut funding and loan guarantees for domestic American shipping companies, shipyards, and shipbuilders. These proposed budget cuts were rejected by Congress.[99] Chao's Department also sought for three years to prevent funding for a program that supports the viability of small domestic US shipyards, and a separate program that issues loan guarantees for the construction or reconstruction of ships with American registration.[99]

Chao pledged in 2017 to divest into cash the "deferred stock units" (non-transferrable stock equivalents) she had earned while she was on the board of directors of Vulcan Materials[100] by April 2018.[101][102] After the Wall Street Journal and other major news outlets reported in late May 2019 that she was still holding the stock, worth $250,000 to $500,000, she sold it on June 3, 2019,[102][100] for a gain of $50,000 since April 2018; a report by the Inspector General did "not identify any evidence of a financial conflict of interest."[102][103]

In June 2019, Politico reported that in 2017 Chao had designated her aide Todd Inman as a special liaison "to help with grant applications and other priorities" for Transportation Department projects in the state of Kentucky, the only state to have such a liaison. Inman was to act as an intermediary between the department, local Kentucky officials, and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who is Chao's husband. This resulted in grants of at least $78 million for projects in Mitch McConnell strongholds Boone County and Owensboro. Inman had worked on the 2008 and 2014 re-election campaigns of McConnell; McConnell and local officials brought up the grants when he announced in Owensboro in December 2018 that he was running for re-election in 2020. Inman later became Chao's chief of staff. However, the Inspector General "did not find any irregularities" with respect to grants benefitting Kentucky and saw awards to Kentucky that were "consistent with other States' results" and "did not find evidence of steering" and concluded that the investigation "did not uncover evidence that Mr. Inman influenced grant awards benefiting Kentucky or gave Kentucky applicants an improper advantage."[104]

In September 2019, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform began an investigation into whether she used political office to benefit her family's business interests.[105][106] A September 16 letter from the Oversight committee to Chao documented allegations that the Department of Transportation was forced to cancel a trip to China in 2017 that Chao had planned to take because State Department ethics officials challenged her attempts to include her family members in official meetings with the Chinese government. The trip was canceled due to scheduling issues and no ethics charges were sustained.[107]

On March 4, 2021, the Inspector General released their report regarding for numerous ethics violations,[a][109] including using department resources for personal errands and for promoting her father's biography.[110] It also stated that it had referred its investigation to the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington D.C. for criminal prosecution in December 2020. Both declined to open criminal investigations into Chao.[111][112]

In May 2020, the Trump administration removed the acting Inspector General of the Transportation Department, Mitch Behm. Behm, who was not a political appointee, was conducting an investigation into whether Secretary Elaine Chao was giving preferential treatment to projects in Kentucky. Her husband, Mitch McConnell, is the Senator of Kentucky and faced a re-election bid at the time.[113][114]

Trump appointed Howard "Skip" Elliott as interim Inspector General of the Transportation Department. However, at the same time, Elliott served in a dual role where Chao was his boss. Thus, Elliott was head of an office that was investigating his own actions and those of Chao.[115]

Post-Trump administration[edit]

Chao speaking at an event in June 2022

In August 2021, Chao was elected to the board of directors of the Kroger supermarket chain.[116] In 2021, Chao also joined the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.[117]

Awards and honorary degrees[edit]

Chao holds 38 honorary doctorates,[118] including an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Georgetown McDonough School of Business in 2015.[119] She was initiated into Omicron Delta Kappa at SUNY Plattsburgh as an honoris causa initiate in 1996.[120]

Personal life[edit]

Chao and her husband, Mitch McConnell

In 1993, Chao married Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator from Kentucky.[121]

The University of Louisville's Ekstrom Library opened the "McConnell-Chao Archives" in November 2009. It is a major component of the university's McConnell Center.[122][123]

From July 2022 onward, Trump had criticized McConnell's leadership on social media and directed "overtly racist" attacks at Chao, including calling her "Coco Chow". In a statement to Politico in January 2023, Chao said that people had "deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name. Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation. He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans."[124][125]


In the two years leading up to the 2014 U.S. Senate elections, during which time Chao was not in public office, Chao "headlined fifty of her own events and attended hundreds more with and on behalf of" her husband and was seen as "a driving force of his reelection campaign" and eventual victory over Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, who had portrayed McConnell as "anti-woman".[126] After winning the election, McConnell said, "The biggest asset I have by far is the only Kentucky woman who served in a president's cabinet, my wife, Elaine Chao."[127]

She has been described by Jan Karzen, a longtime friend of McConnell's, as adding "a softer touch" to McConnell's style by speaking of him "in a feminine, wifely way".[121] She has also been described as "the campaign hugger".[126] The New York Times described Chao as "unapologetically ambitious".[121]

Chao's father has donated "millions of dollars" to the Chao-McConnell family.[99] Chao's extended family has given more than a million dollars to McConnell's campaigns.[99] The extended family is also a top contributor to the Republican Party of Kentucky, giving it approximately $525,000 over two decades.[99]

The Chao family[edit]

Elaine Chao and her father James S. C. Chao met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2016.

Elaine Chao is the oldest of six sisters, the others being Jeannette, May, Christine, Grace, and Angela.[128][129]

Grace is married to Gordon Hartogensis who served as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a part of the Labor Department, in May 2019.[130][131][132][133] Hartogensis co-founded forecasting-software company Petrolsoft in 1989, which was purchased for $60 million by Aspen Technology in 2000.[131] He founded and led application software company Auric Technology LLC until it was sold to a company based in Mexico in 2011 and then helped govern the Hartogensis Family Trust.[133][131]

In April 2008, Chao's father gave Chao and McConnell between $5 million and $25 million.[134][135][136]

In 2012, the Chao family donated $40 million to Harvard Business School for scholarships to students of Chinese heritage and for the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, an executive education building named for Chao's late mother.[137][138] It is the first Harvard Business School building named after a woman[139] and the first building named after an American of Asian ancestry.[140] Ruth Mulan Chu Chao returned to school at age 51 to earn a master's degree in Asian literature and history from St. John's University in the Queens borough of New York City.[128]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adding family members and personal events to a planned (though later cancelled) trip to China in 2017, providing DOT Public Affairs and media support to her father ...[98][108]


  1. ^ Whitnah, Donald Robert (1998). U.S. Department of Transportation: A Reference History. Greenwood Press. p. 165. ISBN 9780313283406.
  2. ^ Winkler, Sigrid (June 20, 2012). "Taiwan's UN Dilemma: To Be or Not To Be". Brookings Institution. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  3. ^ "50 Women Who Made American Political History". Time. March 8, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  4. ^ Transition, Center for Presidential; mpruce (May 20, 2021). "Prominent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Have Served in the Federal Government". Center for Presidential Transition. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  5. ^ aftermarketNews Staff (December 3, 2021). "Elaine L. Chao Joins ChargePoint Board of Directors". aftermarketNews. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  6. ^ Staff, The Trucker News (August 27, 2021). "Former transportation secretary Chao joins board of directors at Hyliion". TheTrucker.com. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "First Taiwan-born US Cabinet member revisits her roots on Taipei visit". Formosa Television News. November 14, 2014. Archived from the original on August 10, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  8. ^ "Elaine L. Chao Biography". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  9. ^ "Dr. James S.C. Chao". The Foremost Foundation. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Flynn, Anneguard (November 6, 2014). "Woman in red dress with Mitch McConnell: Elaine Chao, wife, former labor secretary, and Mount Holyoke graduate". masslive. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  11. ^ "Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Labor". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  12. ^ 惜福感恩、追求卓越的人生典範──傑出校友趙小蘭女士, Tsai-Hsing High School, 2016/10/14
  13. ^ Marquis, Christopher (January 12, 2001). "Woman in the News; A Washington Veteran for Labor; a Tested Negotiator for Trade; Elaine Lan Chao". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Biography". Elainechao.com. Archived from the original on July 26, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Elaine L. Chao". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  16. ^ "Appointment of the 1983–1984 White House Fellows". Reagan Library. Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Elaine L. Chao Biography". Bio. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  18. ^ a b Mattingly, Phil; Wright, David (November 29, 2016). "Trump picks Elaine Chao for transportation secretary". CNN. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  19. ^ Shillinger, Kurt (October 1, 1991). "Peace Corps Enters the '90s Invited into Eastern Europe". The Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  20. ^ "PEACE CORPS PLANS TO SEND VOLUNTEERS TO BALTICS IN 1992". DeseretNews.com. November 7, 1991. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  21. ^ "Elaine Chao Leaves United Way". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. May 30, 1996. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  22. ^ "History | United Way". secure.unitedway.org. Archived from the original on March 27, 2017. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  23. ^ Associated Press (November 15, 2011). "William Aramony dies at 84; United Way chief executive". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  24. ^ "Elaine L. Chao". Biography. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  25. ^ Schreiber, Ronnee (2011). "Pro-Women, Pro-Palin, Antifeminist: Conservative Women and Conservative Movement Politics". In Aberbach, Joel D.; Peele, Gillian (eds.). Crisis of Conservatism?: The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, and American Politics After Bush. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 135. ISBN 9780199764020.
  26. ^ a b Hoover, Amanda (November 29, 2016). "What you should know about Elaine Chao, Trump's pick for transportation". The Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  27. ^ "THE REPUBLICANS: PERSONALITIES AND IMAGES; Worth Watching". The New York Times. July 31, 2000. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  28. ^ "Chao becomes fifth-longest-serving Secretary of Labor". Peace Corps Online. Retrieved December 21, 2007.
  29. ^ "US Department of Labor History". Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  30. ^ "Chao confirmed by unanimous consent motion - January 29, 2001". edition.cnn.com. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  31. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (April 21, 2004). "Labor Dept. Revises Plans To Cut Overtime Eligibility". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  32. ^ David E. Sanger; Steven Greenhouse (October 9, 2002). "President Invokes Taft-Hartley Act to Open 29 Ports". The New York Times.
  33. ^ Horowitz, Carl (October 20, 2008). "Labor Department Issues Final Rule for Union Trusts". National Legal & Policy Center. Archived from the original on March 27, 2017. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  34. ^ "Federal Response: Examples of Government Action Since September 11 (Text Only)". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov.
  35. ^ a b "Q&A with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao". www.masstransitmag.com. August 18, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  36. ^ Minock, Nick (September 11, 2021). "'We were so innocent': Longest serving cabinet member since WWII reflects on 9/11 attacks". WJLA. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  37. ^ "OSHA Steps Up to Help Workers Responding to Hurricane Katrina". www.ehstoday.com. September 2005.
  38. ^ "GAO Case Studies from Ongoing Work Show Examples in Which Wage and Hour Division Did Not Adequately Pursue Labor Violations – Statement of Gregory D. Kutz, Managing Director Forensic Audits and Special Investigations" (PDF). July 15, 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 27, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  39. ^ Shields, Todd; Jacobs, Jennifer; Dlouhy, Jennifer (November 29, 2016). "Transport Pick Chao Gets Conservatives' Praise, Labor Criticism". Bloomberg Politics. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  40. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (July 15, 2008). "Department Is Criticized on Disputes Over Wages". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  41. ^ a b Fletcher, Michael A. (December 1, 2008). "Labor Dept. Accused of Straying From Enforcement". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  42. ^ Carol D. Leonnig (November 25, 2008). "GAO Report Says Labor Department Misled Congress on Cost of Outsourcing Jobs". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  43. ^ "Better Cost Assessments and Departmentwide Performance Tracking Are Needed to Effectively Manage Competitive Sourcing Program" (PDF). November 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 26, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  44. ^ "White House promises mine disaster investigation". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  45. ^ a b c d e Hsu, Spencer (November 17, 2007). "Report Faults Mine Safety". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  46. ^ "Underground coal mine inspection mandate not fulfilled due to resource limitations and lack of management emphasis (Report Number: 05-08-001-06-001)" (PDF). November 16, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  47. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (February 5, 2015). "Court victory for Aracoma widows". MetroNews. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  48. ^ "White House promises mine disaster investigation". Gainesville Sun.
  49. ^ McCue, Dan (May 3, 2010). "Widows Blame Lax Fed for Coal Mine Deaths". Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  50. ^ a b Jenkins, Jeff (September 29, 2014). "Settlement approved in Aracoma mine disaster". MetroNews. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  51. ^ "Report of Investigation Fatal Underground Coal Mine Fire" (PDF). 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2016. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  52. ^ a b c "Mine Safety Agency Settles with 2 West Virginia Miners' Widows". Insurance Journal. July 18, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  53. ^ Mall, Scott (May 26, 2022). "FreightWaves Classics/Leaders: Chao broke barriers leading federal departments". FreightWaves.
  54. ^ Smith, R. Jeffrey (April 2, 2009). "Initiative On Worker Safety Gets Poor Marks: IG's Report Links Weak Enforcement To Job Fatalities". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  55. ^ "Trump picks Elaine L. Chao for transportation secretary". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  56. ^ "Elaine Chao: Director of the Day". Center for Economic and Policy Research. Archived from the original on July 19, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  57. ^ "Elaine L. Chao, director since 2011". Wells Fargo. Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  58. ^ "Dole | Company Info | Biography". Dole. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  59. ^ "Protective Life: Board of Directors". Protective Life. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  60. ^ "Bush Cabinet Member Will Advise Gyro". Gyro. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  61. ^ Segal, Rick (October 27, 2011). "CMOs Explore Work-Life Balance and Brands". Forbes. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  62. ^ Olen, Helaine (January 17, 2017). "Elaine Chao Will Have a Second Income Source When She's Transportation Secretary: Millions From Wells Fargo". Slate. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  63. ^ "Louisville 2011 Woodrow Wilson Awards". Wilson Center. June 24, 2011. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  64. ^ "Bloomberg Family Foundation Announces Four New Board Members". Bloomberg Philanthropies. April 5, 2012. Archived from the original on February 18, 2015.
  65. ^ Youngman, Sam (January 21, 2015). "Elaine Chao resigns from Bloomberg board as it increases 'Beyond Coal' investments". Lexington Herald-Leader.
  66. ^ Wilkie, Christina (August 8, 2011). "Dozens Of Former U.S. Officials Make Millions Advocating For Terrorist Organization". HuffPost.
  67. ^ Gambrell, Jon (February 5, 2017). "Trump Cabinet pick paid by 'cult-like' Iranian exile group". ap.org. Archived from the original on February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  68. ^ "US Senate Roll Call Vote PN35". United States Senate. January 31, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  69. ^ "Elaine Chao Gets Cozy Reception at Confirmation Hearing". The New York Times. January 11, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  70. ^ "U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to attend enthronement ceremony". The Japan Times. October 5, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2023.
  71. ^ "Indonesia's popular president to be sworn in for final term". www.ny1.com. Retrieved May 13, 2023.
  72. ^ Wise, Alana. "Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Resigns, Citing Violence At Capitol". NPR.
  73. ^ Gangitano, Alex (January 8, 2021). "Chao letter to Trump cites Wednesday's 'events at the US Capitol' as reason for resignation". The Hill. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  74. ^ "Federal DOT Announces a New Pilot Initiative to Expedite Integration of Manned and Unmanned Aircraft". Commercial UAV News. November 10, 2017. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  75. ^ "DOT Selects 10 Participants for Nationwide Drone Integration Pilot Program". Avionics. May 11, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  76. ^ "UPS delivery drones approved by government". CBS News. October 2, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  77. ^ Condon, Stephanie (January 9, 2020). "CES 2020: Citing "mystery drones," US Transportation Secretary advocates new rules". ZDNet. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  78. ^ a b Josephs, Leslie (May 12, 2020). "DOT again warns airlines over ticket refunds after 'unprecedented' surge in complaints during pandemic". CNBC. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
  79. ^ Angeline, Jillian (September 1, 2020). "Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao awards more than $1B to airports across the country". WHSV-3 News. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
  80. ^ "U.S. Transportation Secretary Chao: Approximately $1.2 million to 8 tribal governments for COVID-19 response". Niagara Frontier Publications. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  81. ^ "Elaine Chao: Long-Term Plan Needed for US Infrastructure". Transport Topics. October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  82. ^ "COVID-19 Stimulus Funding for Transportation in the CARES Act and other Supplemental Bills". data.bts.gov. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  83. ^ Laris, Michael (April 18, 2019). "Elon Musk's latest plan: Two 35-mile tunnels from D.C. to Baltimore". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  84. ^ Smith, Marcia (July 25, 2018). "CSF's Stallmer slams FAA's proposed commercial space regulations". SpacePolicyOnline.com. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  85. ^ "USDOT Targets Infrastructure Needs in Rural Areas". Transport Topics. October 10, 2019. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  86. ^ "Trump's racist comment on Elaine Chao, McConnell's wife, draws criticism from the right". USA TODAY. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  87. ^ Flannery, Russell. "Top Chinese American Group Blasts "Racist Slurs" By Trump About His Former Transportation Secretary". Forbes. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  88. ^ "President doubles down on feud with lawmakers". Arkansas Online. July 16, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  89. ^ Loh, Matthew (January 27, 2023). "Elaine Chao, Trump-era transportation secretary and Mitch McConnell's wife, hits back at Trump for giving her racist nickname". Business Insider.
  90. ^ Min Kim, Seung (March 26, 2021). "In show of bipartisan solidarity, 26 governors and more than 60 former officials condemn anti-Asian attacks". The Washington Post.
  91. ^ Memmott, Mark (February 26, 2013). "Liberal SuperPAC Under Fire For Tweets About McConnell's 'Chinese' Wife". NPR.
  92. ^ "NKY Dem's tweet draws fire". The Enquirer. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  93. ^ Lipton, Eric; Forsythe, Michael (March 3, 2021). "Inspector General's Report Cites Elaine Chao for Using Office to Help Family". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  94. ^ "Elaine Chao used Transportation Department resources for personal use, watchdog finds". www.cbsnews.com. March 4, 2021. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  95. ^ "Where is Elaine Chao?". POLITICO. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  96. ^ Rizzo, Salvador (August 10, 2020). "Amy McGrath's spurious claim that McConnell 'made millions from China'". The Washington Post.
  97. ^ a b Snyder, Tanya (May 6, 2018). "Did Elaine Chao's DOT interviews help her family's business?". Politico. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  98. ^ a b c Lipton, Eric; Forsythe, Michael (March 3, 2021). "Inspector General's Report Cites Elaine Chao for Misuse of Office". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  99. ^ a b c d e f g h Forsythe, Michael; Lipton, Eric; Bradsher, Keith; Wee, Sui-Lee (June 2, 2019). "A 'Bridge' to China, and Her Family's Business, in the Trump Cabinet". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  100. ^ a b Lipton, Eric (June 13, 2019). "Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Sells Stock in Highway Supply Company". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  101. ^ Mann, Ted; Mullins, Brody (May 28, 2019). "Transportation Secretary Still Owns Stock She Pledged to Divest". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  102. ^ a b c Mann, Ted; Mullins, Brody (June 13, 2019). "Elaine Chao Sells Vulcan Stock Holdings". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  103. ^ "Letter to Chairman DeFazio" (PDF). DOT.gov. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  104. ^ Doherty, Tucker; Snyder, Tanya (June 10, 2019). "Chao created special path for McConnell's favored projects". POLITICO. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  105. ^ Lipton, Eric; Forsythe, Michael (September 16, 2019). "Elaine Chao Investigated by House Panel for Possible Conflicts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  106. ^ "Oversight Launches Investigation of Ethics Allegations Against Chao". House Committee on Oversight and Reform. September 16, 2019. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  107. ^ United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform (September 16, 2019). "Letter to DOT re: Chao" (PDF). United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  108. ^ Watchdog says Elaine Chao, ex-transpo secretary and Mitch McConnell's wife, misused office including making staff edit her dad's Wikipedia page, Business Insider India, LAUREN FRIAS, March 4, 2021. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  109. ^ "Elaine Chao used Transportation Department resources for personal use, watchdog finds". www.cbsnews.com. March 4, 2021.
  110. ^ Diaz, Jaclyn (March 4, 2021). "Elaine Chao Used DOT Resources For Personal Errands, Family Business, IG Report Says". Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  111. ^ "Watchdog faulted Elaine Chao for misuse of office as transportation secretary". NBC News. March 4, 2021.
  112. ^ Corn, David. "Inspector general report says Elaine Chao may have violated federal ethics laws". Mother Jones. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  113. ^ "Democrats open investigation into Trump's replacement of acting Transportation Department inspector general". The Washington Post. 2020.
  114. ^ Mintz, Sam (May 19, 2020). "Democrats blast removal of acting DOT inspector general". POLITICO. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  115. ^ Rein, Lisa; Hamburger, Tom (May 25, 2020). "As Trump removes federal watchdogs, some loyalists replacing them have 'preposterous' conflicts". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  116. ^ Geske, Dawn (August 5, 2021). "Why Customers Are Furious With Kroger And Boycotting Its Stores: 'This Is The Last Straw'". International Business Times. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  117. ^ Johnson, Ted (December 8, 2020). "Donald Trump, Nearing End Of Presidency, Taps Supporters For Slots On Kennedy Center Board Of Trustees". Deadline. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  118. ^ "Elaine Chao". www.elainelchao.com. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  119. ^ "Former Secretary of Labor Encourages Graduates to Create Value". Archived from the original on June 11, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015. ... Chao was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters from Georgetown University.
  120. ^ "Notable Members". Omicron Delta Kappa. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  121. ^ a b c Horowitz, Jason (May 13, 2014). "Girding for a Fight, McConnell Enlists His Wife". The New York Times.
  122. ^ "Open house set Nov. 12 for new McConnell-Chao archive". University of Louisville Today. University of Louisville. November 11, 2009.
  123. ^ "Mission of the Archives". McConnell-Chao Archives and Civic Education Gallery.
  124. ^ McGraw, Meredith (January 25, 2023). "The private angst over Donald Trump's racist attacks on Elaine Chao goes public". Politico. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  125. ^ Kilgore, Ed (August 25, 2022). "Trump Revives His Feud With McConnell (and His Wife, 'Coco')". Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  126. ^ a b Newton-Small, Jay (November 9, 2014). "Mitch McConnell's Secret Weapon: His Wife". Time.
  127. ^ Bailey, Phillip M. (August 4, 2014). "Democratic Strategist Under Fire for Criticizing Mitch McConnell's 'Asian' Wife". WKMS.
  128. ^ a b "Paid Notice: Deaths – Chao, Ruth Mulan Chu". The New York Times. August 8, 2007.
  129. ^ Martin, Michel (July 18, 2012). "For Elaine Chao, A Tough Voyage To U.S. Leadership". NPR.
  130. ^ Mangan, Dan; Breuniger, Kevin (May 15, 2018). "Trump nominates brother-in-law of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Chao to run pension agency". CNBC. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  131. ^ a b c Kullgren, Ian (December 17, 2019). "Want to run an agency? It helps to know Mitch McConnell". Politico. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  132. ^ "PBGC Director Nominee Gets Kicked Back to Trump". Chief Investment Officer. January 8, 2019. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  133. ^ a b "Senate Confirms Gordon Hartogensis as Director of PBGC". Chief Investment Officer. May 3, 2019. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  134. ^ Fang, Lee (October 30, 2014). "Mitch McConnell's Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  135. ^ Bresnahan, John; Raju, Manu (June 12, 2009). "Members' fortunes see steep declines". Politico.
  136. ^ Fang, Lee (October 30, 2014). "Mitch McConnell's Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company". The Nation.
  137. ^ Lauerman, John (October 12, 2012). "Harvard Business School Gets $40 Million Gift From Chao Family". Bloomberg Business.
  138. ^ "Harvard Business School Building Boom Continues". Harvard Magazine. October 12, 2012.
  139. ^ Dixon, Brandon J. (June 16, 2016). "Business School Names First HBS Building after a Woman, Asian American". The Harvard Crimson.
  140. ^ "Chao Center – About Us". Harvard Business School. Retrieved February 6, 2017.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by Director of the Peace Corps
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Labor
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Transportation
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Cabinet Member Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Cabinet Member
Succeeded byas Former US Cabinet Member