As she stood at a podium in Cleveland Thursday evening during the first of two debates among Republican aspirants to the presidency, Carly Fiorina declared that Iran is “at the heart” of evil in the Middle East. But back when she was still the chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, the giant Silicon Valley technology company, the firm “sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of printers and other products to Iran through a Middle East distributor, sidestepping a U.S. ban on trade with the country,” according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.
Such contrasts between current campaign rhetoric and past business practices seem likely to emerge in coming days as Fiorina’s opponents now sift through the record of a candidate who has suddenly gained currency. She woke up Thursday morning as a distant also-ran, and then went to bed that same night viewed as a potential contender in the wake of a surprisingly strong debate performance.
— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) August 6, 2015
On the campaign trail, Fiorina remains something of a novel figure. But on the corporate stage, where she made her name along with a personal fortune, the former CEO has a well-known public record, amassed over two decades -- one now more relevant than ever.
Fiorina is best known as the Hewlett Packard CEO who laid off thousands of employees during her tenure, as the firm’s stock price did not keep pace with the stock market and saw its debt grow. That record did not prevent Fiorina from cashing in: Upon being fired from the job in 2005, she vacuumed in a $42 million payout.
A 2003 study listed Fiorina as the top example of CEOs who saw big raises while laying off thousands of workers. That report from the left-leaning United for a Fair Economy showed that as Fiorina pressed for massive layoffs, she secured for herself a 231 percent pay increase, to an annual salary of more than $4 million.
During her tenure at the company, HP’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed the company moved to “indefinitely” keep more than $14 billion of earnings offshore. The tactic helped the company avoid having to pay the same standard U.S. corporate tax rate that smaller businesses pay, according to the Washington Post.
After leaving HP, Fiorina in 2010 secured the Republican nomination to run against California’s Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Despite spending millions of her own money on the race, she lost by 10 points.
As a presidential candidate, Fiorina has echoed criticism by other Republicans of the federal government’s Export-Import Bank. In a Facebook posting, she touted a Heritage Foundation report calling the agency that gives taxpayer support to corporations “primarily a marriage between big government and a few big businesses.” She said that “If we’re serious about stopping cronyism, we must do away with Ex-Im.” But HP under her leadership accepted and benefited from such support from the Export-Import Bank.
Fiorina also attacked opponent Donald Trump’s ties to the Clintons, following a report that former President Bill Clinton had called the real estate mogul as he was mulling a presidential campaign. Trump has also been a big donor to the Clintons’ family foundation and current Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign.
“I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race,” Fiorina said. “Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation, or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign.”
But, as the Los Angeles Times has reported, Fiorina has in recent years participated in two Clinton Global Initiative events hosted by former President Clinton. Just last year, Fiorina took part in a CGI panel in which she and a number of global business leaders discussed ways to reduce poverty.