In a typical cabinet, Elaine Chao would be one of the richest

By Laurie Bennett

January 12, 2017 at 8:37am

When critics complain about the big-money nominees in Donald Trump’s cabinet, they focus on billionaire investor Wilbur Ross (Commerce), Amway in-law Betsy DeVos (Education), former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson (State) and Goldman Sachs alum Steve Mnuchin (Treasury).

Rarely do they mention Elaine Chao, Donald Trump’s choice for transportation secretary.

Yet Chao, daughter of a shipping company owner and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, banks substantial sums as a corporate director and public speaker.

She is not simply riding her husband’s coattails. Chao was labor secretary in the George W. Bush administration and deputy transportation secretary under the elder George Bush. She served as a commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission, and has been a director of such major companies as News Corp. and Wells Fargo. (This could be a mixed blessing, given that both companies have suffered major public relations disasters in recent years.) Her compensation from corporate board positions alone tops $1 million a year. She has pledged to resign those posts if confirmed.

According to McConnell’s most recent financial disclosure, Chao has received five-figure fees for speaking to such groups as the Real Estate Roundtable.

Her connections in the world of conservative think tanks are also significant. Chao has been a fellow of the Hudson Institute and the Heritage Foundation and a board member of the Federalist Society.

Chao’s father, James Chao, is the founder of Foremost Group. When Chao married McConnell, James Chao gave the couple a gift valued at $5 to $25 million.

Her father sat next to her on Wednesday, as her husband introduced her to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The New York Times reported, Chao received a warm welcome from the panel. Her confirmation is considered a sure thing.

As Chao said in her opening statement, “I will be working to lock in the majority leader’s support tonight over dinner.”

Follow Muckety on Twitter Tweet This! Share on Facebook

Click here to sign up for the Muckety Newsletter

 Read related stories: Politics · Recent Stories · Top one percent  


  • There are no comments yet, be the first by filling in the form below.

Leave a Comment

The relationship map to the left is interactive.
• Solid lines are current relations. Dotted lines are former relations.
• Expand items with + signs by double-clicking or by selecting multiple items in the map and pressing the "e" key.
• Move an item in the map by clicking and dragging.
• You can also delete items, separate boxes and save maps. Right-click on the map or select Map Tools for these options.
• Find out more about an item in the map by right-clicking on the item and choosing Information about...
• View map color key.
• This interactive map requires Flash player.

Become a fan of Muckety on Facebook

  • Search for stories
    Special Features

Follow Muckety on Twitter Follow Muckety on Twitter
Muckety has no direct connection to most of the people or organizations listed on these pages.
We are unable to forward personal messages or provide personal contact information.
We make every effort at Muckety to ensure that our data is correct and timely. However, relationships are in constant flux and we cannot guarantee accuracy. If you come across incorrect or outdated information, please let us know by email.
© 2018 Muckety LLC