CBS correspondent Rita Braver has watched Rubenstein’s rise since she was an overnight news producer in the Carter era. When news would break past midnight, she knew that Rubenstein would be the only staff member still at work in the White House, able to explain things, on background, of course.
“I’ve met lots of people who’ve gotten to be quite big,” Braver says. “They have a certain swagger about them, and they’re always trying to let you know how important they are. With David, it’s quite the opposite. He’s got no swagger. And he is sweet.”
When in Washington, Rubenstein — a teetotaling vegetarian — drives himself in his 12-year-old Mercedes station wagon. He also spends 1,100 hours a year airborne in his Gulfstream jet on Carlyle business, which, adding time on the ground, amounts to 250 travel days a year. (To help attract investors before the public stock listing, he addressed 75 meetings in two weeks on four continents.)
He met his wife, the former Alice Rogoff, when she worked at the Office of Management and Budget during the Carter administration. The two young aides competed with each other to get their memos on top of the pile in Carter’s in-box. Rogoff — who once worked as an assistant to Donald E. Graham, then-publisher and now chief executive officer of The Washington Post Co. — became chief financial officer of U.S. News & World Report. Now, she is a co-founder of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation and publisher of the online Alaska Dispatch. They live in Bethesda and have three children — two daughters who graduated from Harvard and a son at Duke, which Rubenstein attended on a scholarship.
Almost everyone loves a generous billionaire. But skeptics, including some journalists and government watchdogs, say Rubenstein owes the foundation of his wealth to his savvy recruitment of powerful Washington insiders — such as former defense secretary Frank Carlucci, former secretary of state James Baker and George H.W. Bush — to work with Carlyle in various capacities during Carlyle’s skyrocketing adolescence as a private-equity firm in the 1990s. In its business of using investors’ money and bank loans to buy and sell companies for a profit, Carlyle helped pols cash in on their public service, critics say.
Rubenstein denies that those heavyweights improperly influenced the U.S. government on behalf of Carlyle. Mainly, he says, they made it easier to raise money from investors, at a time before David Rubenstein was David Rubenstein.