HP's policy on politics: 'Do as we say, not as Meg does'

Company's code of conduct no match for high-profile politicking of CEO


HP CEO Meg Whitman and Republican GOP presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney are longtime pals with connections forged in both the worlds of business and politics. So it should surprise no one that Whitman has been active in supporting Romney's run for the White House.

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That's the gist of an interesting story this morning by Patrick Thibodeau, who writes for our sister publication Computerworld. Everyone knew of the Whitman/Romney alliance before HP hired Whitman, the story concludes, so there should be little concern about it now.

Seems about right. However, this little nugget from the story caught my eye.

HP doesn't discourage employees from getting involved in politics. But its code of conduct advises workers to "ensure that your individual political views and activities are not viewed as those of HP."

In a statement, an HP spokesman said that "Meg Whitman's support of Mitt Romney is that of a private individual. HP has not taken a position in the current presidential election."

What a load of bu ... baloney.

There's simply no way that any CEO can ensure that his or her "individual political views and activities are not viewed as those of" the company. It's ... not ... possible. And it's doubly not possible when the CEO, who recently ran for governor of California, is a longtime friend, co-worker and political ally of a major-party presidential candidate in an election year.

Don't get me wrong, though; I'm not saying Whitman shouldn't be waving the flag for Romney. After all, in a post-Citizens United world, where corporations have been afforded the same political free-speech rights as voters, there's little argument to be made that Whitman should refrain from actively supporting her candidate of choice.

But let's drop the silly pretense that there's any meaningful difference between her doing so and HP doing so.

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