Personal Affairs

Elaine Chao’s family ties and big business connections have transformed the Department of Labor into an agency seemingly run by and for powerful corporate interests.

  • Meet Elaine Chao
  • Meet Elaine’s Husband, Senator Mitch McConnell

Meet Elaine Chao

Elaine’s professional career includes substantial involvement in corporate and conservative America. Prior to her nomination as Secretary of Labor, Elaine worked at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, all while serving on the board of directors of numerous corporations that have influenced her ability to be an even-handed player in American labor issues.

Corporate Darling: Before joining the Bush cabinet in 2001, Elaine served on the board of directors for 13 corporations including Northwest Airlines, Columbia/HCA Healthcare, Clorox, and C.R. Bard.

Partisan Fundraiser: Elaine raised thousands of dollars for Republican candidates throughout the years. Her work as a “Bush Pioneer” raising $100,000 for his election was rewarded, as President Bush nominated her to become Secretary of Labor despite her lack of experience relevant to that position.

Elaine’s Business Interests: Her close ties to business — including Chinese government, commercial ventures, corporations that invest in or depend on China, and commercial interests potentially affected by her official actions and decisions — raise serious questions about her judgment and commitment to America’s workers.

  • At the time of her nomination, Elaine reportedly failed to disclose on governmental ethics forms that she sat on the board of Multacom, a corporation involved in a joint venture with China Unicom, the Chinese government-owned telecommunications firm. [1]
  • In a West Coast port dispute in 2002, Elaine forced locked-out longshoremen back to work without a fair contract, invoking Taft-Hartley. Notably, Elaine’s father owns a shipping company that is not only heavily dependent on China and foreign trade, but that could have lost millions if the port closures had continued. [2]

Nepotism: Elaine Chao and her husband, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), maintain an active revolving door for their staff. In her post as Secretary of Labor, Elaine hired:

  • Mitch’s chief of staff (and former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director) Steven Law as deputy labor secretary.
  • Mitch’s aide Andrew Rajec as the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) special assistant.
  • Mitch’s press secretary Stuart Roy as her spokesman.

Meet Elaine’s Husband, Senator Mitch McConnell

The Senate Minority Leader and the Secretary of Labor are one of the most powerful political duos in Washington, yet little attention has been paid to the links between Elaine and her husband Mitch’s work. Mitch has a notorious record of working for big contributors and against America’s workers.

Fat Cat Favors: With Mitch, you apparently get what you pay for. Lobbyists and special interest groups always have a friend in Mitch who, along with his wife, returns the favor to powerful business supporters.

  • Gordon Hunter Bates, Mitch’s former staffer turned lobbyist, has repeatedly received earmarks and valuable goodies from Mitch for his clients. For example, Mitch secured nearly $45 million in federal fundsbenefiting four of Bates’ clients, the same folks who gave about $120,000 to Mitch in campaign contributions.
  • The Food Marketing Institute, an interest group representing grocery stores among other groups, rewarded Mitch with $13,000 in campaign contributions while he and Elaine tag-teamed on dismantling the Clinton-era ergonomics safety rules, replacing them with “voluntary guidelines.”
  • The mining industry has given $375,000 to Mitch’s Senate campaigns, including $200,000 from big coal since Elaine became Secretary of Labor. In fact, Mitch received $17,000 from a company whose executives were appointed by Elaine to serve in prominent posts at the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Votes Against Workers: Mitch has voted against workers time and time again:

  • Voted against workers 89 percent of the time throughout the span of his career.
  • Voted against raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.
  • Voted for cutting pay by as much as $11,440 per year for up to 1.1 million tipped workers, such as restaurant staff, in seven states.
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