Former Maine Gov. John “Jock” McKernan says he’s looking forward to his new job running the tax-exempt, non-profit arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a hire the chamber announced Thursday.
“I’m going to be doing two things – I am going to be president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) affiliate of the chamber that’s dedicated to strengthening our long-term competitiveness,” McKernan, a Republican, said in an interview Thursday. “In addition to that I’m going to be a senior adviser to Tom Donohue, the president of the chamber on a number of issues.”
Donohue praised McKernan’s public and private sector experience in a release announcing the hire.
“Jock has dedicated his entire life to strengthening America’s economy, enhancing our global competitiveness, promoting innovation, and improving education and workforce training,” he said. “He’s successfully pursued these goals as a governor, congressman, and CEO. He possesses the perfect mix of public and private sector experiences to ensure that the U.S. Chamber Foundation will accomplish its mission of informing the national debate on key issues.”
McKernan said the foundation “will hopefully be the thought leader on the kinds of things the business community believes need to be done in order to rekindle economic growth and job creation.”
Part of the effort to re-start the sluggish economy will be to promote the chamber’s “jobs and growth agenda,” which includes promoting tax and regulatory reform. Both initiatives, while commonly talked about in Washington, D.C., have fallen victim to the increasingly toxic partisan environment engulfing Congress. McKernan’s wife, former Sen. Olympia Snowe was a strong voice for such reforms before she decided to not run for re-election in 2012. Snowe is now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington and McKernan said the two are happy to continue having one foot in D.C. and the other in Maine.
“We’ll spend a lot of time here and then we’ll also have a chance to be back in Maine as well,” he said. “You never lose those Maine roots.”
McKernan, who served as governor during a Maine government shutdown in the 1990s, said he’s confident the threat of a federal government shutdown will be resolved before ever coming to pass.
“We can’t allow the government to shut down and we can’t not pay our debts so we need to find a way for people to come together and resolve the issue,” he said. “I’m an optimist by nature and so when all is said and done over the weekend people will find a way to work this through.”
The chamber arm McKernan will run is not allowed to participate in campaign activity for or against specific politicians, but it is allowed to run issue-based ads supporting or opposing specific policies.