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Something About Carly: Fiorina and the Professional Political Class

Carly Fiorina’s main talking point throughout her time as 2016 Republican presidential candidate has been that she is an outsider.  Posturing herself as Hilary Clinton’s real challenger, Fiorina takes every opportunity to accuse Clinton of being a career politician.  On this, Fiorina is right.  During a recent Fox News appearance, Fiorina cited a poll that something like eighty percent of Americans now believe there is a “professional political class”.  While it’s refreshing to learn that Americans are waking up to the reality of a patristic, entrenched political elite, it’s distressing that Fiorina doesn’t consider herself and her fellow corporate executives part of it.

The failure to see the American corporate-state partnership (also known as capitalism) is at the root of the problem.  Fiorina and most other supposed free-marketers on the right see a sharp distinction between the public sector and private enterprise.  This distinction is illusory.  Take for example Hewlett Packard, which Fiorina touts as her major selling point–she was HP’s CEO from 1999-2005.  Like other large corporate behemoths, HP is a good-for-nothing welfare queen that derives a great deal of its earnings from feeding at the public trough, both directly and indirectly.  HP’s history of being in bed with the United States government and other governments around the world put its former CEO Fiorina squarely in the professional political class she so readily condemns.

In a 1995 newspaper column called Where to Cut Spending, Walter Williams pointed out that Congress gave almost a half billion dollars to corporate giants HP and Eastman Kodak to produce new storage systems.  This isn’t private business activity, it’s economic fascism. And it’s long been HP’s bread and butter.

Carly Fiorina was not immune to bribery and government handouts (or do I repeat myself) while she was at the helm of HP. She racked up quite a hefty pile of DOJ fines during her stint as CEO there.  And for a job that Fiorina makes the focal point of her résumé, she doesn’t appear to have been very successful at playing the state-corporate backscratching game.  She was ultimately fired from her post, losing 28,000 jobs after engineering HP’s merger with Compaq.  Upon running for a California Senate seat in 2010, Fiorina saw the HP cash cow turn to Democrats, and even her Senate opponent Barbara Boxer as their new partners in crime.

HP was a government crony before Fiorina showed up, and has remained so long after her departure. The 2012 elections in India saw the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh rise to power on promises of free laptop giveaways.  How did the Samajwadi Party make good on its promise? It ordered a million and a half of them from HP on the taxpayer dime.  The move greatly benefited HP, increasing its Indian market share 7% in only a few months.

HP broke the record in 2013 for the single largest government information-technology contract when it secured a $3.5 billion agreement to produce the U.S. Navy’s communications system. This places HP on the list of the biggest military industrial complex cronies, right there with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon, who love nothing more than soaking American taxpayers to produce the next great weapon of mass destruction.

In 2014, HP pleaded guilty to charges of bribing Russian prosecutors in order to maintain a lucrative tech contract with them.  For this, the SEC fined HP $58.7 million. The Russian bribery was part of a larger HP scandal in which HP paid out $108 million in fines for committing other acts of bribery in countries such as officials Mexico and Poland.

All this makes one wonder if HP has any legitimately derived business whatsoever. The answer may well be no.  We know its consumer products certainly don’t fit that description.  On its own website, HP brags that it has “one of the world’s largest patent portfolios.” Like all large, state-protected tech companies, HP’s success has stemmed mostly from government-ensured artificial scarcity through intellectual property rights.

If Fiorina wants to claim the mantle of business maven for the 2016 election, she should at least acknowledge the kind of business she was engaged in at HP and count herself among the professional political class she’s so eager to blast.

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Chad Nelson is senior editor at the Center for a Stateless Society. He’s an attorney based out of Providence, Rhode Island and a Fellow at C4SS. He considers himself one of the world’s biggest Pearl Jam fans despite their blind obedience to the Obama administration. Follow him on Twitter @cnels43.

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