Republican Meg Whitman has been touting her experience as chief executive officer of eBay as her primary qualification to be governor of California. But being a CEO does not necessary equal success in politics. Let’s take a look at the top five worst businesspeople turned politician of the past 10 years.
5. Carly Fiorina
Coming in at number five on our list is Carly Fiorina (R–CA). This former CEO of Hewlett-Packard was forced out of her job in 2005 after her inability to manage the HP-Compaq merger led the company near the brink of financial ruin. Even though her leadership led to mass layoffs in the HP global workforce, she wasn’t above leaving her job without her $20 million golden parachute.
As a spokesperson of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, Fiorina said, “A major corporation is not the same as being president or vice president of the United States. It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company.”
And now, wait for it- Fiorina says she wants to be the new senator from California because her corporate experience makes her qualified to run the country.
4. Jack Ryan
At number four is Jack Ryan (R-IL). Ryan is a former partner at Goldman Sachs and the would-be Republican opponent of Democrat Barack Obama during the 2004 Illinois senate race. He ran on a platform of tax cuts and traditional conservative values. But according to his divorce court documents, one of his values included sex in public nightclubs with “cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling.” I can only imagine what legislation a guy could come up with while bound and ball-gagged.
3. Laura Richardson
Number three on our list is Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA). Richardson was an executive at Xerox before entering government and eventually joining congress in 2007. She had been under an ethics investigation after a bank canceled the foreclosure sale of her Sacramento home and renegotiated her sub-prime mortgage. She has defaulted on three homes. The House Ethics Panel cleared her of any wrongdoing, saying that her inability to pay the mortgage on any of her three homes was because she “did not review the mortgage application as closely as she should have,” and that if she had, she would have realized her inability to repay her loans. In other words, she’s not corrupt, just incompetent. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
2. Hank Paulson
Number two is Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. No single person or entity can bear full responsibility for the economic collapse of 2008. But if you had to blame someone, Paulson would be a good choice. This former Goldman Sachs CEO oversaw the collapse of the financial group Lehman Brothers. When Barclay’s Bank petitioned Paulson for federal money to help acquire the troubled Lehman Brothers, Paulson refused, thinking the systemic effects of a Lehman Brothers bankruptcy would not be worth the cost of a bailout. No one has ever been more wrong about anything. The collapse of Lehman Brothers ripped a hole though the economy that both President Bush and President Obama have been trying to plug with bailout money ever since.
1. George W. Bush & Dick Cheney
And the number one worst businessperson turned politician is a tie between President George W. Bush (R-TX) and Vice President Dick Cheney (R-WY). When Bush and Cheney, an oil executive with a Harvard MBA and the CEO of Halliburton respectively, were elected, we were promised fiscal responsibility and all the administrative competence of a government run by a Fortune 500 CEO. Needless to say, we got none of that. I’m not going to rehash all the failures of the Bush administration. At this point you either already know them or refuse to admit them. But the next time a political candidate tells you to vote for them because of their business experience, keep Bush and Cheney fresh in your mind.