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Marketplace

The downside to being a ‘CEO candidate’

Stan Alcorn May 4, 2015
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Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, officially announced on Monday her candidacy for the presidential nomination. She told “Good Morning America” that she understands “how the economy actually works.” But being a CEO isn’t always an advantage for a political candidate. 

Look, for instance, to CarlyFiorina.org. It’s a simple site, reading: “Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain. So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett Packard.” And then: 30,000 frowny emoticons.

George Anders, author of “Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett Packard,” says layoffs were in the tens of thousands under Fiorina — in large part thanks to a merger with Compaq she pushed through.

This question of how many jobs a CEO created or destroyed is a key one for business executives who become political candidates. Just look at Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency, and his record at private equity firm Bain Capital.

“Whether Bain Capital created more jobs than it took away was one of the great debating issues,” says Mike Useem, professor of management at the Wharton School. “And that obviously is going to be debated in the case of Carly Fiorina. Net-net, was she a job creator?”

One thing Nick Carnes, professor of public policy at Duke University, says we do know about CEOs is their general political tendency: across all levels of government, he says they tend to favor more conservative economic policy choices.

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