Elaine Chao is the Secretary of Transportation in Donald Trump‘s Cabinet. A longtime fellow at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, Chao has been at the neoconservative Hudson Institute since 2016. Chao previously served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush, serving in that post during Bush’s entire presidency. Her tenure was notable for her skepticism of new labor regulations and efforts to rollback existing safety regulations.
Chao is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-AZ), who became the Senate majority leader after the 2014 congressional elections. During McConnell’s campaign for reelection in 2014, Chao became a point of contention because of her participation on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which funds anti-coal environmentalists. McConnell, however, is an ardent supporter of Kentucky’s coal industry. In January 2015, Chao resigned from her board position at Bloomberg.
Although Chao’s work as labor secretary focused primarily on domestic policy, she worked to reinforce the Bush administration’s “war on terror” rhetoric by citing it as a rationale for pressing conservative policy on labor. In mid-2002, when the administration justified the suppression certain of union activities by arguing that they could threaten national security, the Inter Press Service reported: “Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao have both intervened personally to tell the union’s bargaining committee that the administration is prepared to prevent any strike, says Clarence Thomas, secretary-treasurer of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) … according to Thomas, administration officials have made it clear that in the event of a strike, Bush would at least invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, under which striking longshoremen would be ordered to return to work for 80 days.”
In a speech to the rightist Federalist Society in 2003, Chao echoed the neoconservative-driven argument that international legal groups and rights organizations threaten U.S. freedom of action. Citing the Federalist Society-American Enterprise Institute joint project, NGO Watch (later rechristened as Global Governance Watch), Chao stated, “The reality is that multilateral organizations, NGOs, are becoming major, key players in global public opinion and global standard setting. Conservatives need to pay attention to these organizations and the NGOs that influence them. … The Society’s NGO Watch program will provide an invaluable resource for those who cherish freedom, liberty, transparency, and accountability. It can help you monitor NGOs and the progress they’re making to impose through various ways, including through multilateral organizations, the policies that they are unable to muster enough support at home to enact.” She added, “We’ve got to constructively engage these organizations if we are to win the global battle for ideas, because that is a new battleground. So, I urge you to pay attention to this area … President George W. Bush, as you well know, takes the battle over ideas very seriously. I am proud of his leadership and the resolve he has shown in fighting the war on terror and expanding the reach of democracy.”
During her stint at Heritage before joining the administration, Chao pushed the conservative organization to view China as a prime economic prospect rather than as a threatening U.S. competitor. In an Asia Times article on the Bush administration’s confusing China policies, Tim Shorrock drew on a John Judis piece in the New Republic that explored Heritage’s about-face on China. “Chao, according to Judis, came from a wealthy shipping family based in Taiwan that expanded in part through a relationship between Chao’s father and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin. As a senior Heritage official, the article claims, Chao helped push out former Reagan aide Richard V. Allen and presided over a policy shift that transformed Heritage from a hardline supporter of Taiwan into a promoter of economic engagement with China.”
Chao appeared to continue championing this view of China policy after joining the Bush administration. Chao was a moderate member of the high-level U.S. delegation that traveled to China in December 2006 to discuss economic policy. While some U.S. delegates pointed to Chinese intransigence on economic reform, Chao repeatedly underscored the challenges facing Beijing, arguing that it was important to understand that China views its progress in terms of its own history, and not according to U.S. standards. “They’re looking at it from a relative point of view,” she said. “We’re looking at it, obviously, from the absolute comparative basis.” She also stressed that despite disagreements with their Chinese counterparts, U.S. delegates strived to show that the United States “has a very interested stake in China’s economic well-being.”
Critiquing the views expressed by conservatives like Chao that China should be viewed as an acceptable business partner, Michael Rust of the conservative Insight on the News wrote, “Osama bin Laden dipped into his huge fortune to recruit, train, and transport suicide bombers into the heart of American power. Maybe he should just have used the money to start a Washington think tank instead.”
Career in Secretary of Labor
Elaine Chao was the Secretary of Labor during the disastrous administration of George W. Bush. “Although Chao worked for the relatively moderate Bush administration, she’s got serious conservative bona fides,” reports Politico. “During her eight-year tenture at the Labor Department, for example, she drew fire from labor unions and liberals for doing too little to enforce existing laws on wages, overtime and workplace safety. And federal employees threw a ‘good riddance’ party when she left. ‘She was a terrible Labor Secretary,’ said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. ‘She cut the enforcement budgets and … OSHA protections, thereby leaving workers less safe and more likely to be cheated on their wages.’” 
In a position designed to advance the causes of American workers Elaine Chao waged constant war upon them as a Corporate lapdog. That very much makes her part of the discussion:
Chao has recently been spending much of her time speaking before conservative groups on behalf of Bush's decidedly worker-unfriendly proposals for revamping the Social Security system. And she has warned unions not to use their pension funds to oppose Bush's proposal or to hire or fire service providers mainly on the basis of their position on the proposal.
Unfortunately, there's more. Much more. Chao opposes any increase in the pitifully inadequate federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. She opposes affirmative action. She argued that the 170,000 members of the Homeland Security Department should be denied union rights "so we can better protect Americans."
She supported canceling the Labor Department regulations -- 10 years in the making -- that were designed to protect workers from the repetitive motion injuries that hurt and cripple more than two million of them annually and withdrew more than 20 other proposed safety regulations. She slashed the budget for enforcement of the remaining regulations and virtually all other department functions aimed at helping workers.
Chao meanwhile is attempting to impose financial disclosure regulations on unions that would require them to spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars to track and report their expenditures in great, unprecedented and clearly unnecessary detail. Those are the regulations first suggested in 1992 by former Republican leader Newt Gingrich as a way to "weaken our opponents and encourage our allies." 
Transportation Secretary As a Second Income Source: Millions From Wells Fargo
Elaine Chao is certain to be confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of transportation, but that won’t be her only source of income when the new administration takes over. As Lee Fang reports Tuesday at the Intercept, Chao will receive payments of between $1 million and $5 million over the next four years for her service to Wells Fargo, according to her financial disclosure forms. 
Support For “Cult-like” Iranian Exile Group
Chao spoke before an MEK conference in 2015 in Paris. She also had a seat next to Maryam Rajavi, the "president-elect" of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the MEK.
Chao received a $50,000 honorarium from the MEK-associated Alliance for Public Awareness, according to a report she filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Chao received another $17,500 honorarium for a March 2016 speech she gave to the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, which MEK opponents also link to the exile group.
The Department of Transportation said in a statement that Chao has a "strong record of speaking out in support of democracy and women's rights in the Middle East" but "has not spoken to MEK events."
It added that her speeches were delivered alongside bipartisan members of Congress, governors, prime ministers, ambassadors, generals, former FBI directors and "many other influential voices."
The MEK long has cultivated a roster of former U.S. and European officials to attend its events opposing Iran's clerically run government. More than two dozen former U.S. officials, both Republican and Democratic, have spoken before the MEK, including former House Speaker and Trump adviser Newt Gingrich. Some have publicly acknowledged being paid, but others have not.
Giuliani has acknowledged being paid for his appearances at MEK events. But he hasn't filed a government disclosure form since his failed 2008 Republican presidential bid, so it's unclear how much the MEK has paid him. Giuliani did not respond to an AP request for comment sent through his aides.
Gingrich has also spoken to the MEK before, including at a gala in 2016, although it is not clear whether or how much he was paid. Gingrich could not be reached for comment. The White House also did not comment.
The U.S. Treasury briefly investigated the MEK's practice of paying U.S. politicians in 2012, the same year the State Department delisted the group as a foreign terrorist organization. A Treasury spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about the status of that probe.
While nothing would have prohibited the paid speeches, they raise questions about what influence the exiles may have in the new administration.
Already, a group of former U.S. officials, including Giuliani, wrote a letter to Trump last month encouraging him to "establish a dialogue" with the MEK's political arm. With Trump's ban on Iranians entering the U.S., his administration's call this week to put Iran "on notice" and the imposition of new sanctions on Friday, the exile group may find his administration more welcoming than any before.
The MEK formed in 1965. They embraced both Marxism and the idea of an Islamic government after the overthrow of the U.S.-backed shah who ruled Iran at the time. Their name, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, means "the People's Holy Warriors."
They carried out a string of targeted assassinations hitting Iranian officials, as well as Americans. But the MEK today blames a Marxist splinter faction of the group for killing the Americans.
The MEK declared war on Iran in June 1981. Within days, a bomb exploded at the headquarters of the Khomeini-directed Islamic Republican Party in Tehran, killing at least 72 people.
A series of assassinations and attacks followed as MEK leaders and associates fled to Paris. Later expelled from France, the MEK found haven in Iraq amid its grinding, bloody war with Iran. Heavily armed by dictator Saddam Hussein, MEK forces launched cross-border raids into Iran.
After Iran accepted terms of a United Nations cease-fire in 1988, the MEK sent 7,000 fighters over the border. The attack further alienated the group from average Iranians.
The MEK says it renounced violence in 2001. But the U.S. Army's official history of the Iraq invasion in 2003 says MEK forces "fought against coalition forces" for the first weeks of the war, something the MEK denies.
In the chaotic years after the invasion, the MEK itself became a target of violence. The worst came in September 2013, when at least 52 members were shot dead.
Thousands of MEK members were ultimately resettled in Albania. 
 Associated Press, “Elaine Chao’s record suggests skepticism on new safety regs,” November 29, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2016-11-29/trump-source-says-elaine-chao-is-transportation-pick
 Arit John, “Mitch McConnell’s Wife Is Turning Into a Campaign Liability,” The Wire, August 8, 2014, http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/08/mitch-mcconnells-wife-is-turning-into-a-campaign-liability/375781/.
 Sam Youngman, “Elaine Chao resigns from Bloomberg board as it increases ‘Beyond Coal’ investments,” Lexington Herald Leader, January 21, 2015, http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article44548389.html.
 David Bacon, “Unions Fear ‘War on Terror’ Will Overcome Right to Strike,” Inter Press Service, August 10, 2002, http://www.ipsnews.net/2002/08/labour-unions-fear-war-on-terror-will-overcome-right-to-strike/.
 Tim Shorrock, “Bush’s China Policies Confuse Conservatives, Liberals,” Asia Times Online, April 26, 2001, http://www.atimes.com/china/CD26Ad02.html.
 Steven Weisman, “U.S. Hits Resistance at Economic Talks in China,” New York Times, December 14, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/14/world/asia/15chinacnd.html?ex=1323752400&en=8acdf69c48c1159d&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss.
 Ariana Euniung Cha, “U.S., China Clash on Currency,” Washington Post, December 15, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/14/AR2006121400681.html.
 Michael Rust, “Who Bought Off the Think Tanks?” Insight on the News, November 19, 2001, https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-80309412/who-bought-off-the-think-tanks-corporations-eager