Elaine Chao is the current U.S. Secretary of Labor.

She was born Chao Hsiao-lan (趙小蘭) in Taipei on March 26, 1953, and moved to the United States with her family at the age of eight. Her resume from that point is impressive: after graduating from Mount Holyoke College, she earned an MBA from Harvard and slipped in brief stints at MIT, Dartmouth, and Columbia.

In 1983, Chao was tapped from a banking position at Citicorp to become a White House Fellow in the administration of Ronald Reagan. This brought her fully into the Republican Party establishment, and after campaigning in California for a couple of years, she returned to Washington in 1986 to take an administrative position in the Department of Transportation, eventually becoming deputy secretary in 1989.

After Bill Clinton came to power in 1993, Chao became president of the scandal-embroiled United Way: four years later, she became a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Her Bush appointment came after she raised nearly $30,000 for the Texas governor's presidential campaign: being married to Mitch McConnell, one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the Senate, didn't hurt either.

In short, in case you haven't guessed it yet, Elaine Chao is a Conservative All-Star. Of course, this has alienated many people, including those who you might expect to be her strongest supporters. Many Taiwanese-Americans, for instance, hate Chao because she vigorously supported opening trade relations with the PRC in the late 1990's... and many "progressive" Asian-Americans despise her for staunchly opposing affirmative action. (In response to the last issue, Chao has consistently stated that affirmative action hurts the Asian-American community as much as it hurts the white community, although the truth of that statement is probably best left as an exercise to the reader.)

As far as labor policy goes, Chao's most notable initiative was to make it more difficult to get overtime pay: the Senate ended up overturning the bill that her provisions were attached to, so the idea went nowhere. But then again, how effective would you expect a Republican Department of Labor to be?

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