Barra, Stabenow on Clinton’s vice presidential list

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, were considered as possible vice presidential candidates for Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, according to a newly released WikiLeaks email.

Barra’s name was among 39 included in a March 17 email from John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton presidential campaign, on vetting possible vice presidential candidates.

The email followed Clinton’s sweep of the March 15 Super Tuesday primary states of Florida, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina that temporarily seemed to solidify the nomination for her campaign.

Barra, now 54, was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama during President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address after being named the first female CEO of a U.S. automaker. The president highlighted the comeback of the domestic auto industry.

The name of Barra, who added the chairman title earlier this year, also spoke at the September 2014 annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Barra’s name on the vice presidential list was included in a group that included mostly corporate or former corporate leaders such as Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and former New York City Mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg.

GM did not comment Tuesday.

Stabenow was on a list of exclusively female Democratic lawmakers that also named U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill of Missouri (whose name was misspelled on the email) and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay member of Congress when she was first voted into the U.S. House.

“Well, it’s always a compliment to be included in any kind of a list like that,” Stabenow told reporters prior to a speech in Detroit by Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, the U.S. senator from Virginia whom Clinton eventually selected and was on the list of 39.

“I’ll just leave it there,” she added with a laugh.

Podesta wrote that he did a “first cut” of people to consider for vice president, organizing the names into rough “food groups.”

One group — presumably white men — included Kaine, as well as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Another group included New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — all African-Americans.

Another grouping included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro; Rep. Javier Becerra, D-California; Secretary of Labor Tom Perez; and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Barra has worked at GM for more than 30 years and has been praised by many for her handling of GM’s deadly ignition switch crisis just after she took over the Detroit automaker in January 2014 and for working to break down GM’s bureaucratic culture.

At the bottom of the email in a group of one was Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont who fought her nomination up to the convention in Philadelphia, where he urged his supporters to get behind her campaign.

GM has had some interaction with the Clinton Foundation. The automaker has donated between $50,001 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to the Clinton Foundation website. GM said the donation actually was made to the Clinton Global Initiative in the mid-2000s over a period of a few years.

In 2010, the General Motors Foundation donated 30 GMC Sierra pickups that were used in Haitian aid efforts with the Clinton Foundation. The value of the trucks was about $600,000, GM said.

The GM Foundation sent the trucks to Haiti at the request of the United Nations, through an effort between the GM Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, GM said in a news release at the time. The automaker said the Clinton Foundation provided transit of the vehicles.

Jonathan Oosting contributed