Bob Moon: He’s not the only one who’s been complaining about lack of cooperation and irresponsibility among elected officials, but the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, can put his money where his mouth is. He recently wrote an email to employees, entitled “Leading Through Uncertain Times.” The email got traction throughout the company, and also with business leaders and Fortune 500 CEOs. Schultz has called for getting the attention of elected officials with a cut-off of political donations by corporations and unions. Maybe, he says, that will make them work harder on the problems facing the country, rather than on their reelection.
One of the CEOs who has now signed Schultz’s petition is Maggie Wilderotter. She’s CEO of the telecom company Frontier Communications, and is on the line with us now. Thanks for speaking to us.
Maggie Wilderotter: You’re very welcome, it’s nice to be here.
Moon: What made you decide to sign on to this Schultz petition?
Wilderotter: Well I believe that America has been very challenged over the last 12 months and I think all of us are concerned and worried about the country. I know as the CEO of a U.S.-based workforce company, I’ve been trying to do my part to create jobs, to create opportunities on our markets, to continue to invest. But what’s happened in Washington in terms of the uncertainty for business, the anti-business environment, and the fact that Washington is not taking care of the issues that are important to secure our country for the long-run, it’s important for CEOs to make a statement. I want Washington to not campaign. I want them to do their job on a day-to-day basis.
Moon: Now this sort of boycott has gained traction in the business world, obviously, but do you think it’s going to work on Capitol Hill?
Wilderotter: Well I think it sends a message. I think it’s the message that says: Take care of business today, don’t worry about getting elected 12 months from now. Let’s do the job and if you do the job well, you’ll get reelected.
Moon: That doesn’t sound to me, though, that it addresses the political realities of what’s going on in Washington.
Wilderotter: Well I think we can only address what we can control. I can’t control the political realities of what they deal with on a day-to-day basis, but I can control whether I contribute or not to them being distracted.
Moon: There are 100 of you on the list and probably more to come. Is this independent of party lines?
Wilderotter: Yes, it’s totally bipartisan. It has nothing to do with party lines. It has to do with everybody collectively working together because we’re Americans first and that’s what’s important.
Moon: Can I ask which direction that you tend to contribute?
Wilderotter: I actually contribute across the board. It depends on the candidate and it depends on what the candidate stands for.
Moon: What would you like to hear? What do you think would make a difference here?
Wilderotter: I think it starts first and foremost with the financial discipline to come up with a budget that works for this country, where we don’t overspend for dollars we don’t have. We can’t just keep putting that off and kicking that can down the road. We have to get a balanced budget in this country.
Moon: Trying to get a response out of Congress lately has seemed like an impossible task. Do you think money will talk here?
Wilderotter: I think it can help, yes. I think if you’re not able to raise the money for campaigning like you were able to do in the past, then maybe the way you really get reelected is by focusing on your results.
Moon: Maggie Wilderotter is chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications. We appreciate you joining us.
Wilderotter: Thank you so much, have a great day.
Marketplace is on a mission.
We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.
Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?