Carly Fiorina ostensibly came to Washington for a non-political event on entrepreneurialism in America. But her political past and possible future were just under the surface.
Speaking at the Miller Center’s Milstein Symposium, the former chairwoman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard took a few swipes at “big government” during a presentation on startups.
“This is a town that works for big guys – big government, big labor, big businesses,” Fiorina said. “It’s always been that… [But] our future very much depends on the little guys. And I think that requires a rethinking of what the role of government is here.”
Her comments toed the line between the purpose of the symposium—to discuss the recently released report from the Milstein Commission that she co-chaired with Steve Case entitled “Can Startups Save the American Dream?“—and her own political ambitions. Fiorina, who ran unsuccessfully for a California Senate seat in 2010, is actively exploring a run for the White House in 2016.
She was careful to reiterate the the report is nonpartisan and outlines recommendations for fostering small business that don’t require the government, but in the panel discussion she kept coming back to a common Republican complaint: too much red tape.
“When was the last time that we actually did an inventory of all the regulations that are on the books? Answer: not in my lifetime, not in anybody’s lifetime,” she said, hinting at a possible campaign theme. “It’s like geologic sediment. We have eons, millennia of rules and regulations at the federal level, at the state level and at the local level, and it has become a primordial soup. And if you’re a big company you can handle it, but if you’re a startup or small company you really can’t. The point is, we have to start undoing some of this stuff.”
Finally, someone asked Fiorina explicitly about 2016: “Looking ahead to the 2016 field, to those who have declared and those who are likely to, including possibly yourself…”
“Boy, that was a graceful segue!” Fiorina said, laughing, then segued back to talking about the report.