Who Is Carly Fiorina?

Cara CarletonCarlyFiorina (née Sneed; September 6, 1954) is an American Republican politician and former business executive who currently chairs the non-profit philanthropic organization Good360.[4][5]

Starting in 1980, Fiorina rose through the ranks to become an executive at AT&T and its equipment and technology spin-off, Lucent Technologies, Inc. As chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 1999 to 2005, she was the first woman to lead a top 20 company as ranked by Fortune magazine.[6]

In 2002, Fiorina oversaw the biggest high-tech merger in history up to that time, with rival computer company Compaq, which made HP the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer.[7][8] The deal was controversial as analysts were not convinced of its strategic value and it was publicly opposed by several board members and shareholders.[9] Following HP’s gain in market share as a result of the 2002 merger, Fiorina laid off 30,000 U.S. employees.[10][11] By 2004 the number of HP employees was about the same as the pre-merger total of HP and Compaq combined, and that 2004 number included roughly 8,000 employees of companies acquired by HP since 2001.[12][13][14]

On February 9, 2005, the HP board of directors forced Fiorina to resign as chief executive officer and chairman over disagreements about the company’s performance, disappointing earning reports, and her resistance to transferring authority to division heads.[9][15][16] At that time, HP had about 150,000 employees.[12] Its stock price had fallen by approximately half its value compared to when Fiorina had started, while the overall NASDAQindex had decreased by about a quarter owing to turbulence in the tech sector.[17][18][19]

After leaving HP, Fiorina served on the boards of several organizations.[20] She was an adviser to Republican John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign. She won a three-person race for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in California in 2010, but lost the general election to incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer by 10 points.[21][22] Fiorina has never held public office.[23]

On May 4, 2015, Fiorina announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[1]

Early life and education

Fiorina was born on September 6, 1954, in Austin, Texas, the daughter of Madelon Montross (née Juergens) and Joseph Tyree Sneed, III.[24] At the time of her birth, Fiorina’s father was a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.[25][26][27] Her mother was an abstract painter.[28] She is mainly of English and German ancestry,[29][30] and was raised Episcopalian.[29]

Fiorina attended Channing School in London. She later attended five different high schools, including one in Ghana,[31] graduating from Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham, North Carolina. At one time she aspired to be a classical pianist.[32] She received aBachelor of Arts in philosophy and medieval history from Stanford University in 1976. During her summers, she worked as a secretary for Kelly Services.[33] She attended the UCLA School of Law in 1976 but dropped out[34] after one semester and worked as a receptionist for six months at a real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, moving up to a broker position before leaving for Bologna, Italy, where she taught English.[35]

Fiorina received a Master of Business Administration in marketing from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1980. She obtained a Master of Science in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management under the Sloan Fellows program in 1989.[36]

AT&T and Lucent

In 1980, at age 25, Fiorina joined AT&T as a management trainee, selling telephone services to big federal agencies.[37] In 1990, at age 35, she became the company’s first female officer as senior vice president overseeing the company’s hardware and systems division.[38] By age 40, she was heading the North American operations.[38][39]

In 1995, Fiorina led corporate operations for Lucent Technologies, Inc., a spin-off from AT&T of its Western Electric and Bell Labs divisions into a new company.[40] In that capacity, she reported to Lucent chief executive Henry B. Schacht.[41] She played a key role in planning and implementing the 1996 initial public offering of a successful stock and company launch strategy.[38][42][43] The spin-off became one of the most successful IPOs in U.S. history, raising US$3 billion.[37][40]

Later in 1996, Fiorina was appointed president of Lucent’s consumer products sector.[42] In 1997, she was named group president for Lucent’s US$19 billion global service-provider business, overseeing marketing and sales for the company’s largest customer segment.[38][44] That year, Fiorina chaired a US$2.5 billion joint venture between Lucent’s consumer communications and Royal Philips Electronics, under the name Philips Consumer Communications (PCC).[45][46] During her time at Lucent, the company added 22,000 jobs, grew revenues from US$19 billion to US$38 billion, net income went from a small loss to US$4.8 billion profit[47] and the company’s market share increased in every region for every product.[40][47]

In the October 12, 1998 edition of Fortune magazine named Fiorina “The Most Powerful Woman in American Business”.[37] Leaving Lucent in 1999 to join HP as CEO, Fiorina forfeited US$85 million in performance-linked pay and stock options. HP compensated that with US$65 million worth of restricted stock.[47][48]

Hewlett-Packard (HP)


Fiorina as CEO and Chair of the Board of Hewlett-Packard, August 2, 2004

In July 1999, Hewlett-Packard Company named Fiorina chief executive officer, succeeding Lewis Platt and prevailing over the internal candidate Ann Livermore.[49] Concerning Fiorina’s hiring as HP’s first woman CEO, Matthew Boyle of Fortune magazine has said that “Carly Fiorina didn’t just break the glass ceiling, she obliterated it, as the first woman to lead a FORTUNE 20 company.”[50][51][52]

Fortune magazine described the hiring as the result of “a dysfunctional HP board committee, filled with its own poisoned politics, hired her with no CEO experience, nor interviews with the full board.”[53] Fiorina received a larger signing offer than any of her predecessors, including: $65 million in restricted stock to compensate her for the Lucent stock and options she left behind,[47] a $3 million signing bonus, a $1 million annual salary (plus a $1.25–3.75 million annual bonus), $36,000 in mortgage assistance, a relocation allowance, and permission (and encouragement) to use company planes for personal affairs.[54]

Separating Agilent Technologies from HP and proposed PWC acquisition

Although the decision to spin off the company’s technical equipment division predated her arrival, one of her first major responsibilities as chief executive was overseeing the separation of the unit into the standalone Agilent Technologies.[55] Fiorina proposed the acquisition of the technology services arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers for almost $14 billion, but withdrew the bid after a lackluster reception from Wall Street.[56] Following the collapse of the dot-com bubble, the PwC consulting arm was acquired by IBM for less than $4 billion.[57]

Compaq merger

In early September 2001, in the wake of the bursting of the Tech Bubble, Fiorina announced the acquisition of Compaq with $25 billion in stock,[9] which, at the time, was the second largest producer of personal computers, after Dell.[9] HP stock traded down by 30% on the news of the merger.[9] The Compaq merger[58] created the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer by units shipped.[59][60]

Fiorina frequently clashed with HP’s board of directors[54][61] and she had to fight with the board for the merger. Fiorina won the proxy battle with 51.4% of the shareholders with the institutional shareholders providing the bulk of the support.[9] Fiorina was supported in the proxy battle by other board members[9] that included Richard Hackborn, Philip M. Condit,[62] George A. Keyworth, II,[63] and Robert Knowling.[9]

The merger was implemented despite strong opposition from board member Walter Hewlett (the son of company co-founder William Hewlett).[61][64] Hewlett originally voted with the other board members to approve the Compaq deal, but he later changed his mind.[9]Hewlett launched a proxy fight against Fiorina’s efforts, which failed, receiving 48.6% opposition among HP’s shareholders.[65]

Fiorina proceeded to reorganize HP and merge the part she kept with PC maker Compaq.[66]

Business professor Robert Burgelman and former HP executive vice president, Webb McKinney, who led HP’s post-merger integration team, analyzed the merger and concluded that it was ultimately successful, and asserted that Fiorina’s replacement, Mark Hurd, was able to do what his predecessor hadn’t, thus making the merger work in HPs advantage.[67] In 2008, former acting CEO of Compaq and Huffington Post business contributor, Ben Rosen, referred to the merger as “The Merger That Worked”. Rosen went on to reference pundits trying to discredit Fiorina as corporate leader as “shrill”, and stated that “…the merger wasn’t the problem; it was the management. All Hewlett-Packard needed was strong management in order to realize the latent potential of the merged company.”[68] The February 7, 2005 issue of Fortune described her merger plan as “failing” and the prognosis as “doubtful”.[69]

HP’s revenue doubled due to mergers with Compaq and other companies,[70][71] and the rate of patent filings increased.[71] According to reports, the company underperformed by a number of metrics: there were no gains in HP’s net income despite a 70% gain in net income of the S&P 500 over this period;[70] the company’s debt rose from ~4.25 billion USD to ~6.75 billion USD;[70] and stock price fell by 50%, exceeding declines in the S&P 500 Information Technology Sector index and the NASDAQ.[70][72] In contrast, stock prices for IBM and Dell fell 27.5% and 3% respectively, during this time period.[72] The Compaq acquisition, was not as transformative as Fiorina and the board envisioned; in the merger proxy, they forecasted that the PC division of the merged entities would generate an operating margin of 3.0% in 2003, while the actual figure was 0.1% in that year and 0.9% in 2004.[9]

Changes to HP culture

Fiorina’s predecessor at HP had pushed for an outsider to replace him because he believed that the company had become complacent and that consensus-driven decision making was inhibiting the company’s growth. Fiorina instituted three major changes shortly after her arrival: replacing profit sharing with bonuses awarded if the company met financial expectations, a reduction in operating units from 83 to 12, and consolidating back-office functions.[9] To many inside the company, the changes were extreme and in contradiction to the HP Way.[9]

Fiorina faced backlash among HP employees and the tech community for her leading role in the demise of HP’s egalitarian “The HP Way” work culture and guiding philosophy,[54][61][73] which she felt hindered innovation.[54][74] Because of changes to HP’s culture, and requests for voluntary pay cuts to prevent layoffs (subsequently followed by the largest layoffs in HP’s history), employee satisfaction surveys at HP—previously among the highest in America—revealed “widespread unhappiness” and distrust,[54][75] and Fiorina was sometimes booed at company meetings and attacked on HP’s electronic bulletin board.[54]

According to The Fiscal Times, Fiorina and others have argued that she “laid the groundwork for some of HP’s progress under her successors”, and that she shook the culture at HP so that it could compete in the Internet Age.[76]


In January 2001, HP laid off 1,700 marketing employees. In June 2001 Fiorina asked employees to take pay cuts or use vacation time to cut costs, resulting in more than 80,000 people signing up and saving HP US$130 million. In July, Fiornia announced that 6,000 jobs would be cut, the biggest reduction in the company’s 64-year history,[77] leaving many employees feeling betrayed.[78] In the US, a total of 30,000 HP employees were laid off during Fiorina’s tenure.[10][79]

By 2004 the number of HP employees was about the same as the pre-merger total of HP and Compaq employees.[14] According to Politifact, right after her departure in 2005, the merged company had more employees worldwide than HP and Compaq together had before the merger, but some of those HP jobs that existed in 2005 may have been located abroad or resulted from acquisitions.[13] According to the Los Angeles Times, HP had a worldwide workforce of 150,000 when Fiorina resigned, compared to a combined workforce in 2001 of 148,100 for Compaq and HP; but, “in that same period, HP bought more than a dozen other U.S. companies with at least 8,000 employees”.[80]


The company’s stock jumped on news of her departure, adding almost three billion dollars to the value of HP in a single day.[82][83]In 2004, HP fell dramatically short of its predicted third-quarter earnings, and Fiorina fired three executives during a 5 AM telephone call.[54] In early January 2005, the Hewlett-Packard board of directors discussed with Fiorina a list of issues that the board had regarding the company’s performance and disappointing earning reports.[9][15][16] The board proposed a plan to shift her authority to HP division heads, which Fiorina resisted.[16] A week after the meeting, the confidential plan was leaked to the Wall Street Journal.[81]Less than a month later, the board brought back Tom Perkins and forced Fiorina to resign as chair and chief executive officer of the company.[18]

In her book Tough Choices, she referred to board members’ behavior as “amateurish and immature”.[84] Larry Sonsini, who investigated the leak related to Fiorina’s firing, described the board in his report to Fiorina as being “dysfunctional.”[84]

Under the company’s agreement with Fiorina, which was characterized as a golden parachute by Time magazine,[85] and Yahoo!,[86] Fiorina was awarded a severance package valued at US$21 million which consisted of 2.5 times her annual salary plus bonus and the balance from accelerated vesting of stock options.[9][87] In 2008, Loren Steffy of The Houston Chronicle suggested that the EDS acquisition after Fiorina’s tenure was evidence that her failed plan to acquire part of Pricewaterhouse Coopers was justified.[88]According to Fortune magazine, Fiorina collected over US$100 million in compensation during her short tenure at HP.[53]

Business leadership image

In 2003 Fiorina was named by Fortune Magazine the most powerful woman in business, a position she held for five years.[9][89][90] In 2004, Fiorina was included in the Time 100 ranking of “most influential people in the world today”[91] and named tenth on the Forbeslist of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.[92] In 2005, the Wall Street Journal described Fiorina as the epitome of “an alluring, controversial new breed of chief executive officers who combine grand visions with charismatic but self-centered and demanding styles”.[93] A Stanford Graduate School of Business paper noted Fiorina’s request to purchase a $30 million Gulfstream IV for her use, while her predecessor traveled coach.[9][78]

Following her resignation from HP, Fiorina was ranked as one of the worst American (or tech) CEOs of all time.[94][95][96] In 2008, InfoWorld grouped her with a list of products and ideas as flops, declaring her tenure as CEO of HP to be the sixth worst tech flop of all-time and characterizing her as the “anti-Steve Jobs” for reversing the goodwill of American engineers and alienating existing customers.[97][98] Others have defended her business leadership decisions and viewed the Compaq merger as successful over the long term.[17][88][99][100] In 2005, Wharton School of Business professor Michael Useem opined, “Fiorina scored high on leadership style, but she failed to execute strategy”.[101]

Transition of career and public persona

Biography and autobiography

In October 2006, Fiorina released an autobiography, Tough Choices, about her career and her views on issues including what constitutes a leader, how women can thrive in business, and the role technology will continue to play in reshaping the world. A review by NPR Books introduced the work by saying “In one of those acts of serendipity that the publishing industry loves, the current scandal over boardroom spying at Hewlett-Packard has erupted just as its former CEO Carly Fiorina has published her autobiography. The book covers Fiorina’s rise and fall as America’s most powerful female executive.”[102] Her autobiography followed earlier books about her performance, including Backfire (2003)[103] by Peter Burrows and Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard (2003)[104] by George Anders. A 2003 review by The New York Times of the earlier books said, “Two new books about the deal and its main champion—Hewlett-Packard’s chairman and chief executive officer, Carly Fiorina—show that there is much investors can glean immediately from this merger.”[105]

Other organizational involvement

On October 2007, Fiorina signed with the Fox Business Network to become a business commentator on the network.[106]

After resigning from HP, Fiorina served in the board of Revolution Health Group[107] and computer security company Cybertrust in 2005.[108] In 2006, she became a member of the board of directors for chip maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company(TSMC),[109] but she resigned from that board on November 30, 2009, with the company saying this was “because she planned to devote her full time and energy to US senatorial campaign.”[110] She served as a member of the MIT Corporation[111][112] from 2004-2012. She was a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2005.[15][113][114] She is an Honorary Fellow of the London Business School.[115] In July 2012, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia appointed her to the James Madison University Board of Visitors.[116][117]

Fiorina is the chairwoman and CEO of Carly Fiorina Enterprises, a business and charitable foundation.[118] A spokesperson described Fiorina Enterprises as “…a nonprofit enterprise that helped Fiorina structure speaking engagements and appearances while providing the public with information about her activities…”[119] The San Francisco Chronicle reported that, as of July 2009, she had “never registered her Carly Fiorina Enterprises to conduct business in California, either with the California secretary of state or the clerk of Santa Clara County, where Fiorina lives.”[119]

Philanthropy and nonprofit work


In April 2012, Fiorina became chair of Good360, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit organization in Alexandria, Virginia, which helps companies donate excess merchandise to charities.[120] Good360 has been consistently ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 10 most efficient charities,[121] and ranked as the 33rd largest charity in the United States.[122] Fiorina has stated that Good360 is “the largest product donation marketplace in the world. We help companies take excess inventory and then distribute that excess inventory to 37,000 vetted charities around this country.”[123] In September 2014, Fiorina led an effort by Good360 to get American corporations “to help combat the Ebola virus in West Africa – by donating specific items.”[124] As of August 2015, she continues to hold this position.[125]

The One Woman Initiative

Fiorina served as Fund Chair of One Woman Initiative (OWI), a partnership between the private sector and government agencies including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Department of State (DoS).[126][127]OWI describes itself as “An International Women’s Empowerment Fund” which seeks to “support existing initiatives in Muslim majority countries and countries with large Muslim populations” and “focus on key empowerment issues including entrepreneurship, political leadership, and the rule of law.”[128] OWI said it would raise funds in order to give grants to achieve these objectives, with contributions managed through a separate section 501(c)(3) designated organization.[128]

In June 2009, USAID announced that OWI grants totaling over $500,000 had been made to grassroots organizations in Azerbaijan, Egypt, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.[129]

Opportunity International

On February 14, 2013, Opportunity International announced a partnership with Fiorina and OWI to provide financial resources, education and training to two million women living in poverty.[130] Fiorina was referred to as Global Ambassador to Opportunity International.[130] On May 4, 2015, Opportunity International announced that Fiorina was resigning from the Board after the announcement of her presidential candidacy.[131]

Fiorina Foundation

Fiorina is the chairwoman and CEO of the Fiorina Foundation, a charity that has donated to causes including Care-a-Van for Kids, a transportation program to aid seriously ill children, and the African Leadership Academy, an educational institution in South Africa.[119]

The Chronicle reported that “Records also show that her Fiorina Foundation has never registered with the Internal Revenue Service or the state attorney general’s charitable trust division, which tax-exempt charities are required to do. The foundation ‘enables corporations, spokeswomen entrepreneurs and philanthropists alike to address some of the world’s most challenging issues,’ according to Fiorina’s Web site,” [119] A spokeswoman commented that “Fiorina and her staff believed the foundation was not required to file with the IRS because it accepted no outside contributions and donated only her personal wealth to worthy causes.”[119]

Political career

Fiorina has never held public office,[23][132][133] but said that her status as an outsider is a positive, given that in her opinion, professional politicians have failed to deliver to the American people,[23] stating in an interview with Fox News in 2015 that “82% of the American people now think we need people from outside the professional political class to serve in public office.”[134]

Republican National Committee fundraising chair and 2008 campaign

In 2006, Fiorina worked for Republican Senator John McCain‘s presidential campaign. In early 2008, she was referred to in media sources as a potential vice presidential candidate,[135][136] and The New York Times noted that while she did not want to run, she was an executive who could possibly become a candidate for president.[137] On March 7, 2008, Fiorina was named fundraising chair for the Republican National Committee‘s “Victory” initiative. She was a “point person” for the McCain campaign on issues related to business and economic affairs.[138] Fiorina’s severance package from Hewlett-Packard in 2005 was viewed by some as a political liability during the campaign.[139][140][141]

On September 3, 2008, Fiorina addressed the Republican National Convention. Earlier that day, she defended the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate and said that Palin was being subjected to sexist attacks, a charge she repeated a few days later in response to one of the Saturday Night Live parodies of Sarah Palin.[142][143][144]

When asked during a radio interview on September 15, 2008 whether she thought Palin had the experience to run a major company like Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina answered “No, I don’t. But that’s not what she’s running for. Running a corporation is a different set of things.” When questioned about her answer, she answered, “I don’t think John McCain could run a major corporation.” Fiorina further claimed that none of the candidates on either ticket had the experience to run a major corporation.[145][146][147] After media coverage of Fiorina’s comments, she “disappeared from public view” and planned television appearances were cancelled,[148] although she continued to chair the party’s fundraising committee.[138][147][149][150][151]

Referring to the McCain campaign, Newsweek described Fiorina as “the most prominent surrogate on economics issues in any of the major campaigns.”[152] Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg pointed out Fiorina’s downside, as a vice president running mate for McCain, “is rather easy to sketch out” because Fiorina would “become a talking point for Democrats” who would focus on Fiorina’s severance package and her management style. Rothenberg concluded that Fiorina was “like a dream come true” for Democraticopposition researchers.[153] Yale business management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld stated that McCain’s pick of Fiorina to assist with the McCain presidential campaign showed “a blind spot. . . in the McCain campaign to have elevated her stature and centrality”, giving her “street bully” leadership style a platform.[70][154]

Defense Business Board and Central Intelligence Agency

Fiorina performed unpaid service on the Defense Business Board, which looked at staffing issues, among others, at The Pentagon.[155]

Fiorina spent two years leading the Central Intelligence Agency‘s External Advisory Board, from 2007 to 2009,[155] and became chairman of that board,[156] when the board was first created in 2007 by then-CIA director Michael Hayden during the George W. Bush administration.[157]

U.S. Senate candidacy for California, 2010

Fiorina’s campaign sign during her candidacy for U.S. Senator from California

On November 4, 2009, Fiorina formally announced her candidacy in the 2010 Senate election in a bid to unseat incumbent Barbara Boxer.[158][159][160][161] Fiorina’s campaign in the Republican primary for that seat received a number of endorsements, including one from Sarah Palin in the form of a Facebook note.[162][163][164] Her campaign ad about Republican rival Tom Campbell featuring a “demon sheep”—created by Fiorina advertising consultant Fred Davis III—created international, and negative, publicity.[165][166] After the ad went viral, the California Democratic Party created a parody of the ad depicting Fiorina herself as a demon sheep.[167]

On June 8, 2010, Fiorina won the Republican primary election for the Senate with over 50 percent of the vote, beating Campbell and State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.[168]

A Los Angeles Times search of public records indicated Fiorina had failed to vote in most elections. Fiorina responded: “I’m a lifelong registered Republican but I haven’t always voted, and I will provide no excuse for it. You know, people die for the right to vote. And there are many, many Californians and Americans who exercise that civic duty on a regular basis. I didn’t. Shame on me.”[169][170]

The Los Angeles Times noted that Fiorina had conservative positions on certain social issues. She personally opposed abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother’s life.[171] As a private citizen, she stated that she voted for Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.[172] Following an August 4, 2010, federal court ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, Fiorina expressed disagreement with the ruling, saying that California voters spoke clearly against same-sex unions when a majority approved the proposition in 2008.[173] She stated that she opposed litmus tests for Supreme Court nominations and did not favor a federal “personhood” amendment.[174] Fiorina had called global warming a “serious issue” but claimed that the science surrounding it is inconclusive, saying “I think we should have the courage to examine the science on an ongoing basis.”[175] In a campaign ad, Fiorina likened Boxer’s concerns over global warming to worrying about “the weather.”[176] Fiorina accepted large contributions from the coal industry[177] as well as Koch Industries.[178] Fiorina opposed the cap and trade legislation supported by Boxer, and thought efforts to control greenhouse gases would cost 3 million jobs and are “massively destructive”.[179][180]

In financial disclosures, Fiorina identified her net worth at between US$30 million and US$120 million, and she donated US$5.2 million to her own campaign.[181]

Sarah Palin was set to appear at a GOP fundraiser two weeks ahead of the November 2 election, but neither Meg Whitman nor Fiorina – both big-name Republicans – planned to attend. The prediction was that Palin’s primary endorsement would jeopardize her general election candidacy.[182] By October 22, when it became public that Fiorina had loaned $1 million to her campaign, she had contributed $6.5 million to her own race.[183]

Boxer won the general election, defeating Fiorina 52.2% to 42.2%.[184]

Reuters reported that nearly a half million dollars in debt from Fiorina’s 2010 campaign remained unpaid until May 2015. Twelve former high-level campaign workers told a reporter that they would not work for her again and questioned her budgeting of the campaign. Fiorina did not personally respond to the report. Her campaign remarked that outstanding debts after a campaign are not unusual, and Fiorina’s prior campaign debt had been paid in full.[185]

Unlocking Potential Project

Fiorina launched and developed a political action committee (PAC) known as “Up-Project” (short for “Unlocking Potential Project)[186] from 2011 to 2014. The stated mission of the organization is “…to engage women with new messages and new messengers by focusing on personal interactions with voters and going beyond the traditional methods of identifying, persuading and turning-out voters…”[187] In November 2014, The Washington Post reported that “Helping Fiorina chart her political future are consultants Frank Sadler, who once worked for Koch Industries, and Stephen DeMaura, a strategist who heads Americans for Job Security, a pro-business advocacy group in Virginia”;[188][189] The Up-Project website lists Fiorina as chairman.[190]

American Conservative Union Foundation and CPAC

On October 1, 2013, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), appointed Fiorina as chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF), the ACU’s educational arm.[191] The ACU is a conservative 501(c)(4) organization, while the ACUF is its affiliated 501(c)(3) foundation, which organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).[157][191]

Fiorina was co-chair of CPAC 2014, making a speech at the conference.[157] At CPAC 2015, Fiorina again made a speech at the conference.[156][157][192] It was speculated that Fiorina would announce her candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in that speech,[156][157] but Fiorina did not, instead making her official announcement months later, on May 4, 2015, in a television and promotional video, therein repeating her talking points from CPAC and including an attack on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.[193]

Fiorina resigned as ACU Foundation chair in early 2015.[194]

U.S. presidential campaign, 2016

Carly Fiorina speaking at the 2015Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 26, 2015.

Fiorina ruled out running for the U.S. Senate in 2016,[195] but refused to rule out running for president in 2016 or Governor of California in 2018.[196][197][198][199] In November 2014, The Washington Post reported that Fiorina was “actively exploring” a run for president. Her business background and status as the only CEO and the only woman in a “sea of suited men” were mentioned as positives, with Republican strategists pointing to her disastrous 2010 Senate campaign, unpaid campaign debt and dismissal from HP as “considerable challenges”.[200] In March 2015, Fiorina said on Fox News Sunday that there was a “higher than 90% chance” that she would run for president in 2016.[201]

On May 4, 2015, Fiorina announced her candidacy during an interview on Good Morning America, with George Stephanopoulos.[1] Fiorina entered the race with immediate criticism of Hillary Clinton. It was reported that the GOP sees Fiorina as “the tip of the spear” in its attack of the Clinton campaign because she is uniquely positioned to isolate her criticisms of Clinton from claims of gender bias.[202]

Shortly after Fiorina announced her entry into the 2016 presidential race, in a replay of her 2010 senatorial race, the social media and editorial outlets questioned her tenure as HP’s CEO as a basis for her run for president, focusing around US job cuts and offshoring that Fiorina directed during her tenure at HP, contrasting it with the high compensation bonuses she received from the company.[203] Campaign Manager, Sarah Isgur Flores, deflected the job cut criticism saying, Fiorina “worked hard to save as many jobs as possible.”[204][205]

On August 6, Fiorina participated in Fox News’s first GOP debate. Failing to qualify for one of the Fox News prime-time debate slots, she was relegated to the debate airing earlier the same day.[206] Fiorina’s performance led news sources to conclude she had won the early debate.[207][208][209] Following the debate, several pundits correctly predicted that her polling numbers would surge.[210][211] On August 9, Fiorina reported an uptick in fundraising support.[212] In an online poll by NBC and SurveyMonkey on August 10, Fiorina came in fourth of the seventeen Republican contenders with 8% of the sampled Republican primary voters saying they would support her in a primary or a caucus, a gain in support of six points from previous polling data.[213]

The National Review pointed out her role as foil to Hillary Clinton, saying “Carly Fiorina is no doubt getting attention because of her unique background, but more and more people are staying to listen because she has something fresh to say”, and that “Fiorina also seems to relish the role of being the most pointed critic of Hillary Clinton…. She contrasts her background as a ‘problem solver’ with Clinton’s record as a professional politician.”[214] The Nation commented, “With so-called women’s issues poised to play an unprecedented role in the upcoming election, Republicans need someone who can troll Hillary Clinton without seeming sexist.”[215] While noting she was named “the most powerful woman in business” by Fortune Magazine in 1998, Steve Deace of the Conservative Review stated, “Fiorina is a cross between Carson and Trump. She has some of Carson’s inspirational biography, and some of Trump’s business acumen/resume.”[216]

As part of her financial disclosures related to her candidacy, Fiorina reported a net worth of US$59 million, with US$12 million in income in 2013.[217][218] International Business Times estimates Fiorina’s net worth between US$30 million and US$120 million.[219]

Political positions


Fiorina is pro-life, and has expressed support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, with an exception for cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother.[220] Fiorina supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling by the Supreme Court which legalized abortion in the United States.[220]

Fiorina supports eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which receives federal funds to provide health screenings for low-income women.[221] The use of federal funds for abortions is mostly banned under current law.[221]

The National Right to Life Committee, the Susan B. Anthony List and the California ProLife Council all endorsed Fiorina’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in California on account of her vocal anti-abortion views.[222]

Climate change

In a February 2015 speech, Fiorina acknowledged the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity,[220] but expressed skepticism that government can affect the issue[220][223] and has “implied that targeting the coal industry will not solve the problem”.[220]

On April 4, 2015, Fiorina spoke out about climate change in her home state of California as well as how the state has fared in the 2012–15 North American drought, stating that “liberal environmentalists” have brought what she described as a “tragedy” and that California is an example of “liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology”.[224]


Fiorina opposed the 2009 federal stimulus act, calling it a waste of taxpayer money.[223]

Fiorina has said she would cut the pay of federal workers and base their compensation on performance.[223]


Fiorina said in May 2015 that “drug addiction shouldn’t be criminalized” and cited “decriminalizing drug addiction and drug use” as an example of a successful reform.[225]

Fiorina opposes legalization of marijuana, but says that she believes in states’ rights and that as president she will not enforce the federal ban on marijuana in Colorado, where voters have legalized marijuana as a matter of state law.[226]


Fiorina is a critic of the Common Core State Standards, calling them a “heavy-handed and standardized” example of “Washington bureaucracy”.[227][228] According to PBS, “In a position paper while running for the U.S. Senate in California, Fiorina strongly advocated for metric-based accountability in schools. She praised No Child Left Behind as setting high standards and Race to the Top for using internationally-benchmarked measures.”[220]

In 2010, Fiorina indicated that she would support “a voucher program for the areas, or neighborhoods, or student populations most in need”.[229] In 2015, Fiorina wrote that she supported a school choice or voucher program for all students.[228]

Fiorina stated at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference that President Obama’s proposal for free community college was intended “to distract us from the fact that we have too many failing high schools”.[229]

At a May 2015 event, Fiorina asserted that the federal government “in the last several years under the Obama administration has nationalized the student loan industry”.[230] The Annenberg Public Policy Center‘s stated that “Fiorina gave a misleading description” since “private and federal student loans are available now, just as they were in the past.”[230]

Foreign policy

Fiorina has criticized the Iran nuclear agreement, based on a number of issues that she called “suspicious”. She has said that Iran is not a good actor and did not negotiate in good faith, and that if the U.S. wanted to achieve a good deal then the negotiators on the U.S.’s behalf should have walked away from the bargaining table but never did.[231] Fiorina also stated that the U.S. cannot trust the verification components of the deal because Iran does not allow access to military sites and Iran has broken sanctions and inspection agreements in the past,[231] and that the approval of the international community is suspect because Russia and China were negotiating on Iran’s behalf looking out for their own self-interests (specifically gaining access to Iran’s economy) and the European Unionnegotiates weak deals.[231][232][233]

On Russia-U.S. relations and the Ukraine crisis, Fiorina has said that if president, she would “stand up and arm Ukraine” and conduct more aggressive military exercises in the Baltic nations to “send a very clear message to Vladimir Putin.”[234]

In a January 2015 discussion with an Iowa political blogger, Fiorina said of the Chinese: “They’re not terribly imaginative. They’re not entrepreneurial. They don’t innovate. That’s why they’re stealing our intellectual property.”[235]

Health care

Fiorina has stated that the Affordable Care Act is a vast legislative overreach that did not fix the problem it started out to fix and created problems for everyone else.[236] Among her criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that the number of uninsured is not coming down fast enough, deductibles have gone up, and the amount of paperwork has increased.[236] She supports repeal.[236] Fiorina has proposed establishing federally-subsidized but state-run “high-risk pools to help those who are truly needy.”[237]

Referring to childhood vaccinations, Fiorina said: “When in doubt, it is always the parents’ choice.”[238] Fiorina defended the right of school districts to require that children be vaccinated against common communicable diseases, but said that districts should not be permitted to require that children receive “some of these more esoteric immunizations” in order to attend public schools.[238]


In California, Fiorina supported the DREAM Act, which would allow children brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were under the age of 16 to secure permanent U.S. residency and a path to citizenship if they graduate from college or serve in the armed forces.[220][223][239]

In a May 2015 interview with Katie Couric, Fiorina said that she does not support a path for citizenship “for those who came here illegally and who have stayed here illegally.”[239] Fiorina drew a distinction between people in that category and those who came legally but overstayed their visas.[239]

Fiorina has stressed the need to improve border security before undertaking comprehensive immigration reform.[223][239]

LGBT rights

In November 2009, during a Wall Street Journal interview, Fiorina said that she voted in favor of Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition which banned same-sex marriage in that state, but noted that “she created a strong program of domestic partner benefitswhile at HP”.[240]

During the 2010 United States Senate election in California, Fiorina was endorsed by GOProud, a gay conservative organization.[241]

In August 2010, Fiorina indicated on a Christian Coalition questionnaire that she opposed enforcing the 1993 law banning homosexuals in the military.[242][243]

In 2010, Fiorina stated that she supported the Defense of Marriage Act, but also supported civil unions.[244] In 2015, Fiorina reaffirmed her support for civil unions and stated that those in such unions should receive the same government benefits accorded to married persons.[245]

On September 19, 2010, in a Faith2Action survey, she opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.[242]

On March 17, 2013, on ABC News, Fiorina said “I think we have to be careful, because John Boehner‘s views, which are different from Rob Portman‘s views, are equally sincere. And I think when we get into trouble on this debate when we assume that people who support gay marriage are open and compassion and people who don’t are not. It’s why I believe the right way to solve these very personal issues is to let people vote on them, don’t have judges decide it, don’t even have representative government decide it, let people vote on it in the states. I think people of both points of view, accept the democratic process. What they don’t always accept is a bunch of self-important, self-appointed judges saying this is culturally the new norm.”[246]

In April 2015, Fiorina defended the Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and government benefits to same-sex couples. She stated that the Indiana bill is about the “opportunity to practice their religions freely” and “It has not and has never been a license to discriminate.”[247] On April 2, 2015, in an interview with USA Today, she described it as “shameful” how, in her view, liberals have fanned the furor over the Indiana law. “I honestly believe this is a set of liberal political activists who practice a game of identity politics and divisive politics to whip people into a frenzy, and I think it’s very destructive to the fabric of this country,” she said. She blasted business leaders in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who have criticized the Indiana law as discriminatory, questioning why there isn’t similar outrage “in the Twitterverse about the subjugation of the rights of women and gays in many countries in which these companies do business. Where is the outrage about that? Where is the outrage about how gays are treated in Iran, for example? Where is the outrage about how women are treated in Algeria?”[248]

During an April 2015 interview with ABC News, Fiorina stated, “I think it’s really too bad, honestly, that CEOs are being pressured […] What this law basically says is that a person can push back against … either federal government mandate or state government mandate to exert their religious liberties.[249]

In 2010, while answering a Christian Coalition questionnaire, Fiorina said that she supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.[250] During an interview with the conservative Christian website Caffeinated Thoughts at a Dallas County, Iowa Republican event in May 2015, Fiorina reversed her previous position, saying that she now opposed such a measure: “I think the Supreme Court ruling will become the law of the land, and however much I may agree or disagree with it, I wouldn’t support an amendment to reverse it.”[250][251] She further stated that “government shouldn’t discriminate on how it provides benefits and … people have a right to their religious views and those views need to be protected.”[251]

In June 2015, as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment, Fiorina said the decision was “only the latest example of an activist Court. I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage. I believe that responsibility should have remained with states and voters where this conversation has continued in churches, town halls and living rooms around the country.”[252]

Maternity leave

Fiorina believes employers should decide whether they should provide paid maternity leave to their employees and it should not be mandated by the government, noting that some companies in the private sector, such as Netflix, are already doing so to attract talent.[253][254] She also pointed out that HP, while she was CEO, offered paid maternity leave voluntarily.[253]

Minimum wage

Fiorina believes that the federal minimum wage “is a classic example of a policy that is best carried out in the states”,[255] saying a national minimum wage does not make sense because economic conditions in New Hampshire varies significantly from more expensive economic conditions in Los Angeles or New York. She also believes that raising the federal minimum wage would “hurt those who are looking for entry-level jobs.”[223]

Net neutrality

Fiorina opposes net neutrality rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission and has said she would “roll back” that policy, because “Regulation over innovation is a really bad role for government.”[220][256][257]


Fiorina “generally believes that reducing government regulations helps to spur the economy.”[223]

Fiorina has condemned the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, saying in April 2015 that “We should get rid of Dodd-Frank and start again.”[258]

Fiorina has inaccurately stated that not “a single regulation has ever been repealed.”[259] Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post “Fact Checker” column gave this statement three out of four Pinocchios, finding that “Important parts of the economy have been deregulated in recent decades. While the repeal of a specific rule is relatively rare, there are certainly examples.”[259] Susan E. Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University, said that Fiorina is “generally right that regulations, once issued, are rarely revisited and even more rarely actually repealed”.[259]


During her 2010 Senate campaign, Fiorina “called for eliminating the estate tax and capital gains taxes for investments in small businesses, and lowering marginal tax rates.”[223]

Fiorina opposes proposals to increase the federal gas tax or state gas taxes in order to fund the Highway Trust Fund, asserting in a February 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed that “Any gas tax hike, big or small, will harm American families and hurt economic growth.”[260]

Technology employees

Fiorina favors expanding the H-1B visa program.[261][262][263][264] Writing in opposition to proposals she considered protectionist in a 2004 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Fiorina said that while “America is the most innovative country,” it would not remain so if the country were to “run away from the reality of the global economy.”[265] Fiorina said to Congress in 2004: “There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs as a nation.”[262] While Fiorina argued that the only way to “protect U.S. high-tech jobs over the long haul was to become more competitive [in the United States],” her comments prompted “strong reactions” from some technology workers who argued that lower wages outside the United States encouraged the offshoring of American jobs.[266]

Personal life

Fiorina (then Cara Carleton Sneed) married Todd Bartlem, a Stanford classmate, in June 1977. They divorced in 1984.[267] In 1985, she married AT&T executive Frank Fiorina. It was the second marriage for each. They wanted to have children together but, as Fiorina put it: “That wasn’t God’s plan.”[268][269][270] She helped raise his two daughters Traci and Lori Ann. Lori Ann struggled with alcoholism, substance abuse and bulimia. She died in 2009 at age 35.[225][271] Fiorina and her husband live in Mason Neck, Virginia.

On February 20, 2009, Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy[272] at Stanford Hospital on March 2, 2009, followed by chemotherapy, which caused her to temporarily lose her hair, and later radiation therapy.[273] She was given “an excellent prognosis for a full recovery.”[274][275] Early in her campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer, Fiorina humorously told a group of supporters: “I have to say that after chemotherapy, Barbara Boxer just isn’t that scary anymore.”[276]

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