The short hop between the Fortune 500 and Washington

By Laurie Bennett

September 7, 2009 at 8:45am

The path between American business and Capitol Hill is usually marked by political contributions and lobbying efforts.

Yet personal connections are more direct. Sometimes, as it was for six-term congressman and former Vice President Dick Cheney, the path is a two-way street. Between Bush administrations, Cheney was chairman & CEO of the Halliburton Company.

A query of the Muckety database finds several modern-day examples of former members of Congress who have held top positions (chairman, CEO and/or president) of companies on the Fortune 1000 list. In addition to Cheney, these include:

Richard B. Cheney
Richard B. Cheney
  • George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s Mideast Envoy and former Senate majority leader, chaired the Walt Disney Company. He also served on the boards of Fortune 500 companies FedEx, Staples and Xerox.
  • Donald Rumsfeld, former defense secretary and congressman from Illinois, was chairman of the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. Rumsfeld took the post in 1997, after serving as defense secretary under Gerald Ford and before he returned to the post under George W. Bush.
  • James A. Courter, former congressman from New Jersey and a campaign bundler for John McCain in 2008, is CEO of the telecommunications company, IDT Corporation.
  • New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine was chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs before he was elected to the Senate in 2000.

If we expand our query beyond top positions, to include officers, vice chairmen and directors, we find 68 current and former members of Congress with connections to Fortune 1000 companies.

Former Vice President Al Gore is a director of Apple and senior adviser to Google.

Former Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri is a director of three Fortune 1000 companies - Centene, Ford Motor and United States Steel.

Tom Daschle, who plays an informal role in the White House push for health care reform, is a director of CB Richard Ellis Group. The global real estate company has strong connections to Washington. Chairman Richard Blum is the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Mickey Kantor, trade representative and commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is also a director, as is Frederic V. Malek, campaign manager for George H.W. Bush in 1992.

For current members of Congress, personal connections to the corporate world most frequently occur by marriage. In addition to Feinstein, those whose spouses hold positions with major corporations include:

  • Chris Dodd, whose wife Jackie Clegg Dodd is sits on several major boards, including Blockbuster, Brookdale Senior Living and CME Group.
  • Evan Bayh
    Evan Bayh

  • Evan Bayh, whose wife Susan Bayh is a director of Wellpoint, as well as several other companies. Former Sen. Donald Riegle is also a director of Wellpoint.
  • Jane Lakes Harman, whose husband Sidney Harman is chairman of Harman International Industries.
  • Jay Rockefeller, whose wife Sharon Percy Rockefeller is a director of PepsiCo.
  • Tom Harkin, whose wife Ruth Harkin is a director of AbitibiBowater and ConocoPhillips.

Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell, recently announced that she was leaving General Motors on Oct. 1. She has been GM’s executive director of global community and government relations.

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