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Elaine Chao Elected To Kroger Board

elaine chao
J. Scott Applewhite
FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2019 file photo Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington. Chao is resigning effective Monday, becoming the highest ranking member of President Donald Trump’s administration to resign in protest after the pro-Trump insurrection at Capitol. In a statement Thursday, Chao, who is married to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, said the violent attack on the Capitol “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Cincinnati-based Kroger is naming former U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to its board of directors. Chao was elected to serve until the board's annual meeting next June, when she'll stand for election by shareholders.

Chao also served as the U.S. labor secretary under President George W. Bush, becoming the first woman of Asian descent to serve in a presidential cabinet. She previously held top positions with the United Way and the Peace Corps.

An Inspector General report released in March found Chao repeatedly used her position and agency staff during her time with the Trump administration to help family members who run a shipping business with ties to China, in potential violation of federal ethics laws. NPR reports the findings were referred to the Justice Department in December 2020, but the DOJ declined to open an investigation.

NPR reports, "The OIG report doesn't offer a formal conclusion that Chao violated federal ethics laws, but it did highlight several instances that deserved further scrutiny, especially in situations tied to the secretary's family, the report said."

Chao's office issued a statement saying the finding "exonerates the Secretary from baseless accusations and closes the book on an election-year effort to impugn her history-making career as the first Asian American woman appointed to a President's Cabinet and her outstanding record as the longest tenured Cabinet member since World War II."

Chao is married to Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Updated: August 10, 2021 at 4:12 PM EDT
This story updated to include statement from Chao's office saying the OIG report "exonerates" her.