WASHINGTON - U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
failed to reveal on her financial disclosure form that she was
a board member of privately held Multa Communications Corp.,
which operates a high-speed Internet backbone, according to
documents examined on Monday.
California-based Multacom said it operates in the United
States, China and Taiwan and offers high-speed Internet access,
virtual private networks, data centers, Web hosting and Web
Chao, a Taiwanese immigrant, was sworn in as the labor
chief on Jan. 31, but a Multacom spokesman said she resigned
her board position on March 1, a month after she took the reins
of the agency that oversees protecting workers' wages,
workplace health and safety as well as job training.
A review of Chao's disclosure form, filed on Jan. 29 with
the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, shows 28 positions held
outside the government, including director's chairs at Dole
Food Co. Inc. and the Nasdaq stock market.
She did not include any reference to Multacom.
Nominees to head government departments must fill out a
public financial disclosure report that outlines their assets,
liabilities, compensation and positions outside the U.S.
government and is available to the public.
The form specifically requires the disclosure of all
previous positions, paid or unpaid.
Chao was on the company's board since July 1, 2000,
according to a January press release issued by Multacom when
President Bush nominated her to be Labor Secretary.
The failure by Chao, who is married to Kentucky Republican
Sen. Mitch McConnell, to reveal the position at Multacom was
first reported by The New Republic magazine.
Telephone calls seeking comment from Chao's spokesman were
not immediately returned, and it was not clear whether she was
paid for her service on the board. Two calls to company
officials were also not returned.
``An innocent omission or forgetting would not really be
the kind of thing that would trigger a penalty,'' said James
O'Sullivan, a spokesman for the ethics office, speaking
generally about the disclosure forms.
However, a penalty could be imposed if it were determined a
person falsified or knowingly omitted information, he said.
Chao was President Bush's second pick for the slot, behind
Linda Chavez who withdrew amid staunch opposition from labor
groups and the revelation that an illegal immigrant had lived
and worked in her home since 1991.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited