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Romney Is Early Favorite Of Industry Execs

by Glenn Hess
February 4, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 5

No clear front-runner had emerged in either party's presidential nomination contest as C&EN went to press, a situation that could change on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, when voters in more than 20 states go to the polls on the biggest day of the primary campaign.

An impressive array of chemical industry leaders have placed their bets on Republican Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who spent 25 years in the business world as a venture capitalist in Boston.

At the American Chemistry Council, the industry's largest trade association and chief lobbying organization, the top four officers have all contributed to Romney's campaign: Andrew N. Liveris, chairman of Dow Chemical as well as of ACC's board of directors; Robert L. Wood, chairman of Chemtura and head of ACC's executive committee; David N. Weidman, president of Celanese and vice chairman of ACC's board; and ACC President Jack N. Gerard.

"Mitt Romney has a great background; it's diverse," says Gerard, who is raising funds for the campaign as a national finance cochair. "He understands business, he understands government, and he understands nonprofit sectors. I personally believe he would make a great president."

A number of other industry leaders have also donated money to Romney, including Jon M. Huntsman, founder and chairman of Huntsman Corp.; Hugh Grant, chairman of Monsanto; Michael R. Boyce, chairman of PQ Corp.; and Michael J. Dolan, president of ExxonMobil Chemical. Most of the contributions have been for $2,300, the maximum amount allowed by federal law.

Support for Romney is far from unanimous, however. Top chemical company executives are active in several campaigns, supporting different candidates. James B. Nicholson, president of PVS Chemicals, for example, is backing Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.), while Rajiv L. Gupta, chairman of Rohm and Haas, has contributed to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Meanwhile, Jeffrey M. Lipton, chairman of Nova Chemicals, has given money to both Romney and Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.

"We're not an industry of shrinking violets," Gerard says. "We're not afraid to mix it up. We're not going to sit on the sideline and let others dictate our alternatives. That's not the way you should play politics. We believe in getting engaged early on and trying to help shape what our choices might be."

Gerard adds that he isn't too concerned about the extreme positions some candidates take or the heated rhetoric they often engage in during the primaries. "Once the mantle of the presidency rests upon a person, I believe they move much closer to the middle," he remarks. "They become more realistic and more understanding that they're the president of the U.S., not the president of a political party. They have to step beyond partisan politics and extreme ideology and begin to understand that they represent a great nation."

After the November elections are over and a new president takes office, Gerard says he hopes to have a chance to sit down with top administration officials and explain "the importance of the business of chemistry and what we do to advance our economy, what we do to create and preserve high-paying jobs in this country, and what it takes for us to truly compete globally."


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