Elaine Chao has resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies as the foundation revs up its commitment to its clean energy initiative, the office of her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, confirmed Wednesday.
Chao, the secretary of labor in President George W. Bush’s cabinet, stepped down from the board before the philanthropic group announced $48 million in clean energy grants on Wednesday.
Bloomberg Philanthropies was founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
During last year’s U.S. Senate Race in Kentucky, McConnell, a Republican seeking (and eventually winning) re-election, defended his wife’s position on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies. McConnell’s Democratic challenger, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, characterized Chao’s role with Bloomberg as a weakness in McConnell’s claim as a pro-coal candidate.
A statement from McConnell’s office described Chao’s decision to resign as a “respectful parting of the ways.”
After learning of the Foundation’s decision to devote significant new resources to its Beyond Coal initiative, Secretary Chao informed Mayor Bloomberg of her decision to resign from the board. As a longtime Kentucky resident who has spent countless hours traveling the Commonwealth and listening to the concerns and anxieties of its citizens, it became clear to the Secretary that her service on the Board was incompatible with her commitments to Kentucky and its people, particularly its coal miners and their families. It was a respectful parting of the ways.
Chao joined the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2011.
(Photo: Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell at the Fancy Farm picnic in 2014. Credit: Alix Mattingly)