The highest levels of the business world have long been a crucible for creating late-career politicians. But perhaps due to increasing public distrust of career politicians, the 2010 season seems to boast a greater number than usual. In the words of Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief executive running for governor of California, "Businesswomen from the real world ... know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done." Here, a brief guide to five titans of commerce currently seeking major office — and the controversies that might hinder their electoral hopes:
Background: Former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
Wants to be: Republican senator of Connecticut
Could be controversial because: Being chief executive of WWE is not just a desk job. McMahon was an active player in the ringside dramas engineered by her husband Vince. She was even shown once slapping her daughter live on stage. Detractors say the WWE glamorizes violence against women, and does not treat its wrestlers humanely. McMahon counters that professional wrestling is a "soap opera."
What people say: Her "hands-on management style in the ring" is an "oppo researcher's dream," says Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post.
Background: A property magnate worth approximately $1.25 billion
Wants to be: Democrat senator of Florida
Could be controversial because: Where do you want to start? Greene's past is littered with legal battles with former employees and allegations of failed payments. He made $500 million by betting against against the subprime mortgage collapse that has left many of his potential constituents homeless. He also has some colorful friends: Mike Tyson was best man at his wedding, and Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss stayed at his house after her release from prison. Oh, and he's run for office before — as a Republican.
What people say: "Send Jeff Greene to the U.S. Senate, and what do you get?" says Adam C. Smith at the St. Petersburg Times. A "self-made success story" who "only wants to do what's right"? Or a "tyrant and egomaniac who spends six years embarrassing Florida"? On the available evidence, "either alternative looks plausible."
Background: Former CEO of eBay
Wants to be: Republican governor of California
Could be controversial because: Whitman served on the board of Goldman Sachs, the deeply unpopular investment bank. In addition, she has reportedly invested a record $91 million of her own fortune into her campaign. She also allegedly paid a $200,000 settlement to an eBay employee for shoving her.
What people say: The "anti-Sarah Palin," Whitman is a competent businesswoman who turned eBay from a "no-name Web auction house" into a "multibillion-dollar juggernaut," says Sara Libby at Slate. "If California is about to declare banktrupcy," aren't those exactly the sort of qualifications you need?
Background: Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Wants to be: Republican senator of California
Could be controversial because: She was ousted by HP's board after a highly unpopular tenure as CEO, including a controversial decision to merge with computer maker Compaq. She was subsequently rated the 19th worst CEO of all time by Portfolio. Silly campaign ads have also made headlines, as did her accidental on-air description of opponent Barbara Boxer's hair as "so yesterday."
What people say: "Massive layoffs, jobs shipped overseas, and failed merger aside" — at least Fiorina managed to get one thing right at Hewlett Packard, says Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Nation. Her severance package was "reportedly worth $42 million." If California's voters like "judgement and values," then Fiorina should be sunk.
Background: Founder and chief executive of healthcare firm Columbia/HCA; co-founder of healthcare firm Solantic
Wants to be: Republican governor of Florida
Could be controversial because: Scott was forced to resign from HCA in 1997 after it made the "largest healthcare fraud settlement in history." After repeated attacks from Democrat opponent Bill McCollum, Scott apologized for his company's mistakes and launched a "Truth about Rick Scott" website.
What people say: Before Scott went into politics, he made a fortune "buying up hospitals and downsizing them for profits," says Lee Fang at Think Progress. Not only that, but his "shady business dealings" include investments that aid "repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran." We hope this self-described "Conservative outsider" remains just that.