News and Commentary

DRAIN THE SWAMP?: McConnell’s Wife Snags Secretary of Transportation.

President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly made another appointment to his cabinet: Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for Secretary of Transportation.

Chao, who came to the United States as an eight-year old immigrant from Taiwan knowing no English, has extensive experience in government, as she has served in both of the Bush administrations. In George H.W. Bush’s administration, Chao served as the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary from 1989 to 1991. She was the Labor Secretary under President George W. Bush throughout his entire presidency, which is “the longest tenure in the position since World War II,” according to CNN; Chao was also the first Asian woman to be appointed to the position. Chao also directed the Peace Corps for a year under the elder Bush until he lost his re-election bid.

Additionally, Chao served in the Reagan administration in the Federal Maritime Commission as the deputy administrator and chaired the commission for a year.

When she hasn’t been working in government, Chao has served as a fellow at The Heritage Foundation, where she has produced several conservative publications. She was also the president and chief executive officer of United Way of America from 1992 to 1996, turning around a company that had been plagued with mismanagement.

Chao first met McConnell on a blind date, and the two were married in 1993. As notes, Chao is the family’s breadwinner, since her father founded the Foremost Group shipping and trading company, and she received a massive inheritance when her mother passed away–the couple’s net worth skyrocketed from $7.8 million to $22.8 million from the inheritance. Chao is following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Dole, who also served as Transportation Secretary while her husband, Bob Dole, served as the Republican Senate Majority Leader. Chao also ardently campaigned for her husband in the 2014 Senate campaign.

There is a concern for conservatives about Chao becoming Transportation Secretary–it all but guarantees that Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal will pass. Conservative Review‘s Chris Pandolfo points out that “Sen. McConnell has worked on behalf of President Obama to shove a $305 billion highway bill through Congress, in addition to multiple other spending boondoggles. Now, McConnell’s wife will be whispering in Trump’s ear as the head of the department that requests infrastructure funding from Congress.”

Another troubling sign about Chao’s appointment for conservatives–she served on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which had invested in the Sierra Club.

Chao certainly has the credentials for the position as Transportation Secretary, but she hardly seems like a “Drain the Swamp” pick and would likely help persuade Trump to go along with her husband’s agenda as Senate Majority Leader; his agenda is pure establishment.