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Correction to This Article
The article about the business background of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terence R. McAuliffe incorrectly said that McAuliffe described himself as a huckster in his autobiography. McAuliffe described himself as a hustler in the book.

McAuliffe's Background Could Prove A Liability

Va. Foes Capitalize On History of Mixing Politics and Business

Terry McAuliffe's background as one of the most prolific fundraisers the Democratic Party has ever seen could prove to be a liability in his run to be governor of Virginia.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 3, 2009

Terry McAuliffe has a simple message for Virginia: Elect him governor this year and he will bring jobs, because he has more business experience than anyone else in the race.

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Yet McAuliffe's business pedigree is not so simple. He is a dealmaker who made millions from investments. And many of his biggest deals came in partnership with prominent donors and politicians, creating a portrait over the years of a Washington insider who got rich as he rose to power within the Democratic Party.

McAuliffe is, at his core, a salesman -- and even called himself a "huckster" in his autobiography. In his bid for governor this year, McAuliffe is selling the idea that his uncanny knack for making money can bring prosperity to all Virginia. But at a time when public mistrust of millionaires and politicians is high, that strategy could backfire.

"People are somewhat skeptical at the moment of certain kinds of business dealings," said Robert D. Holsworth, a political scientist and author of the blog Virginia Tomorrow. "There is a populist resentment that's directed at both government and business simultaneously. I don't know how that's going to play out."

McAuliffe faces Brian Moran and R. Creigh Deeds in the June 9 Democratic primary; the winner will face Republican Robert F. McDonnell in the fall.

On the campaign trail, McAuliffe has repeatedly used local businesses as the backdrop for his political rallies. He tells audiences that he has been a one-man engine for job creation for decades.

Wearing a hard hat recently while touring a trash incinerator that converts waste to energy, McAuliffe sloshed through trash ooze in hiking boots. "I love landfills!" he declared, machine-gunning his tour guide with questions and barraging his staff with ideas to jot down. "Oh, wow!" he gasped while looking at a four-story mountain of trash.

Such hands-on displays, along with an endless stream of exuberant one-liners ("I started my first business at 14!"), reveal a showman and salesman.

But they belie the complexity of a business career built mostly on intricate land deals and dot-com investments, often with wealthy political donors -- and sometimes with no jobs to show for it.

Forming Partnerships

After graduating from Georgetown Law, McAuliffe has been forming partnerships, raising capital and investing in business ventures. He has earned millions as a banker, real estate developer, home builder, hotel owner, Internet venture capitalist and credit-card marketer.

For McAuliffe, politics and business have always been intertwined.

He was Richard Gephardt's national finance chairman and later gave Gephardt a loan from the bank he led, Federal City National Bank. He worked with then-House Whip Tony Coelho on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 1980s and later worked with him at a Washington real estate brokerage, the Boland Group.


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