RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe as U.S. commerce secretary under a President Hillary Rodham Clinton?
Asked to pondered the possibility that Clinton, a close friend, would appoint him to the post if she wins the White House in 2016, McAuliffe (D) called the prospect “interesting” — because he’d have to answer to a boss for a change.
“It would be interesting,” McAuliffe said in a radio interview, adding with a laugh, “I’ve never worked for anyone in my life.”
McAuliffe was a free-wheeling political fundraiser, Democratic National Committee chairman, and a sometimes-controversial entrepreneur before winning the governor’s mansion in 2013. He launched his own business — a driveway-sealing enterprise in his native Syracuse — when he was just 14, as he noted on Friday, when he was a guest on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show.
On the program, political analyst Tom Sherwood lobbed a question about the commerce secretariat after McAuliffe wound down a long pitch for a proposed natural gas pipeline, which he said was already helping him lure new business to the commonwealth.
“I was just thinking — you as Secretary of Commerce Terry McAuliffe under a Hillary Clinton administration,” Sherwood said.
“I’m not sure it would be a big enough job for him, though,” Sherwood added in an aside to Nnamdi before turning back to McAuliffe with a dig at Clinton, whose presidential bid has been undermined by revelations that she used a private e-mail system while serving as secretary of state.
“You’d have to have your own e-mail system,” he said to McAuliffe.
President Bill Clinton once considered McAuliffe for commerce secretary, McAuliffe wrote in his autobiography, “What a Party!” William M. Daley had just left the post to become chairman of Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. McAuliffe’s wife, Dorothy, suggested him for the job over a late-night game of cards with the president and first lady, McAuliffe wrote.
“‘Mr. President, don’t you think Terry should replace Bill Daley?’ Dorothy said, surprising everyone,” McAuliffe wrote.
“‘Darn right, Bill,’ Hillary said. ‘He’d be great. He can sell anything. He can sell ice to Eskimos. He should do it. He’d be the best.’
“Bill Clinton wasn’t about to argue with both Hillary and Dorothy, and he joined right in, talking about what a good fit the job would be for me. ‘Okay, great, I’m for Terry for secretary of commerce,’” he said.
But the next day, Chief of Staff John Podesta called McAuliffe to put the kibosh on the plan, saying, “I don’t know about sending the President’s buddy and biggest fund-raiser in the party through a Senate confirmation hearing right before the 2000 presidential election.”
The notion came up again Friday after McAuliffe gave a lengthy rationale for building the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
A consortium of companies led by energy giant Dominion Resources wants to build a 550-mile natural gas pipeline, which would run through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. McAuliffe announced last year that he supports the project, which faces opposition from some environmental groups and federal regulatory review. He said the plan is already helping him attract new business to the commonwealth.
“This pipeline will now give us very cheap gas,” McAuliffe said. “I talk about building a renaissance of manufacturing in America. I want to see that in Virginia. Southside, Southwest Virginia — they’ve lost coal, textile, furniture, tobacco. Great, hard-working folks, great workforce. But in order to bring those businesses to Virginia and away from China, which we have done, is through cheap energy.
“This pipeline will be like a super highway, that you can take a spur off anywhere you want directly to a manufacturing facility to power up that facility. I can now beat anybody in the globe on energy costs.”
McAuliffe went on to credit the proposed pipeline with helping him land the biggest economic development deal of his administration: Chinese-owned Shandong Tranlin Paper Co. plans to create 2,000 jobs in suburban Richmond with a $2 billion plant that makes paper from corn stalks and other agricultural field waste.
“Last year, China, the largest project they have ever done by a company into America. We won that in Virginia — $2 billion, 2,000 new jobs. I’m in the middle of negotiating contracts around the globe. The only reason I’m in the game moving these companies to Virginia is because of this pipeline.”
The connection between the pipeline and the paper plant was not obvious to the general public. McAuliffe announced the Tranlin deal in June 2014, while he and Dominion unveiled plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline three months later.
“Obviously the governor had been in conversations with Dominion before the announcement was made and was able to use the prospect of the forthcoming pipeline as part of the negotiations with Tranlin,” McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said.