Chief Executives Weigh Risk, Reward of Serving on White House Councils

Several CEOs and industry leaders who have submitted their resignations from the White House’s manufacturing council this week, have not been opposing the president for the first time, CNBC informs.

For instance, President Donald Trump described pharmaceutical companies’ pricing tactics as “getting away with murder,” and his tough position on immigration has created an antagonistic relationship with the technology companies.

But the resignation of Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, might not be that easy on him. Paul’s organization promotes U.S. manufacturing jobs, particularly in the steel and aluminum industries – and the White House’s focus on restoring old-line manufacturing, as well as recent attempts to crack down dumping these products in the U.S. would seem to directly align with their objectives.

Paul commented in a tweet that his resignation was the “right thing to do,” while he did not mention anything in connection with the incident in Charlottesville. GOP strategists say the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord in June was the first watershed moment that emboldened advisors such as Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger to quit the president’s advisory bodies. At the time, Intel and Under Armour released statements that they were “disappointed” in the decision, but it was the Charlottesville response that fueled the momentum.

“There’s strength in numbers,” said Kevin Madden, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies and former spokesperson for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

The forceful resignation of those companies has forced others like Johnson & Johnson and Walmart – which condemned the violence, recognizing other leaders’ personal conscience, but chose to stay “engaged” – to explain their rationale or risk alienating employees, customers or clients.

“Gone are the days where you can hope for the issue to go away or expect that you won’t be called upon to stake out your position one way or another,” Madden said.
Some companies quietly welcome the opportunity to cede their unofficial role defending the administration and an unwanted spotlight in order to focus on day-to-day business.

A political advisor who is close to the White House described the level of engagement between the White House and chief executives as “episodic,” noting frustration within C-suites that the White House hasn’t put policies discussed in listening sessions into practice, outside of energy and old-line manufacturing issues.

“There’s a certain degree of dread when either the CEO or the senior government affairs people see ‘unknown’ on their phone,” said the advisor, who requested anonymity to describe confidential clients’ reactions, referring to the unlisted telephone numbers from which White House officials call.

For those choosing to stay in official roles visiting what the president calls the “boardroom,” it’s unclear what they’ll receive. The council forged early deadlines for task forces on regulatory issues but hasn’t outlined its objectives since. Perhaps they’ll dodge a mean tweet from the leader of the free world. Perhaps government contractors – like Lockheed Martin – won’t lose their seat to a competitor like Northrup Grumman, that’s not currently represented.

Or perhaps there’s a specific near-term goal for companies like 3M and Whirlpool, which rely on the North American supply chain as NAFTA gets rewritten, beginning imminently.

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