Fiorina slams stimulus as failure for private sector, while her former company takes in $22M

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is kicking off her general election campaign against Democrat Barbara Boxer by criticizing the $862 billion federal stimulus package as doing little for private businesses.

Yet there was at least one California business that benefited from the stimulus plan, one close to Fiorina's personal story.

Federal data analyzed by The Associated Press show that Hewlett-Packard Co., where Fiorina was chief executive from 1999 to 2005, has been paid $22.5 million so far in stimulus money distributed to cities, school districts, hospitals and universities across the country.

They used the money to buy computers, laptops, servers and other equipment from the Silicon Valley computer giant that provided much of Fiorina's personal wealth.

The purchases were over the past year, long after Fiorina left the company, but they illustrate the kind of benefit to private industry that Fiorina says has been missing from the stimulus program.

Fiorina's spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said Friday that the stimulus has not lived up to the promise of job creation as made by President Obama and Boxer, who backed the plan. She said HP's plan to lay off about 9,000 employees underscores that the stimulus isn't working.

"No one disputes that billions and billions of taxpayer dollars have been doled out through the stimulus, but it's one thing for the government to spend money, quite another to claim that just because a check was cut it actually achieved the stated goal — job creation," Soderlund said. "The fact is that we have not seen the 'help and hope' Barbara Boxer promised the stimulus would bring."

In Florida, the county of Miami-Dade purchased 26 HP servers for virtual desktop work stations. The city of Charlotte, N.C., purchased 93 HP laptops for police officers and 13 high-end laptops for crime analysts, according to the federal government data.

The Social Security Administration spent $1.2 million in stimulus dollars to purchase HP computers and monitors for its field offices. Indian Health Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides health care to Native Americans, spent $1.4 million on field office computers.

Marquette University in Wisconsin used nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation on a high-powered HP supercomputer that has the capacity of more than 1,000 desktop computers to help advance research, such as that done on cancer-treating drugs.

An HP spokesperson said the company does not comment beyond what's disclosed in financial filings.

Fiorina has made job-creation the central theme of her campaign to unseat the three-term Democratic incumbent, believing that message will resonate in a state that has been stuck with an unemployment rate above 12 percent. That compares to a rate of 10.2 percent when the federal government began to release stimulus money in February 2009.

Criticizing the $862 billion stimulus package, which was supported by Boxer, is one of her main points of attack. Fiorina argues that the federal stimulus program has done too little to create private-sector jobs.

"If you're a business owner and there are stimulus dollars that might help your customers buy more of your product or help you, of course you're going to accept the stimulus dollars," she said Thursday to reporters during a campaign stop in Sacramento. "But that is not an argument that the stimulus package has worked."

She stopped at Rex Moore Electrical Contractors and Engineers in Sacramento, where the company's human resources director said the electrical contracting company's business is off by 40 percent.

"California is a demonstration of the fact that when government gets too big, when taxes get too high, regulations get too thick and special interests get too powerful, we destroy jobs," said Fiorina, a first-time candidate.

Boxer's campaign pointed out that Rex Moore received a $447,820 subcontract on a child development center project in the Central Valley town of Lemoore, all paid with stimulus money. The company human resources director, Greg Anderson, said "the funds haven't made a significant difference."

The AP reviewed Recovery Act data from February 2009 through March 2010, the most current available. So far, the federal government has reported funding 682,370 jobs nationwide with the stimulus money. The three major components of the package included tax breaks, contracts and grants, and funding entitlements such as health care for the poor.

Part of the stimulus is to drive innovation in a way that's better for the environment and could save businesses money.

HP's single largest stimulus-related order was a joint venture to reduce energy use in technology equipment. HP received an Energy Department grant of $7.4 million to develop energy-efficient information technology and computer storage equipment with Cleveland-based industrial manufacturer Eaton Corp.

The system, which was last reported as less than 50 percent completed, will provide its own internal power and cooling, as well as accept alternative energy power sources, such as wind and solar.

In a January press release announcing the grant, HP executives touted the energy benefits of the project for the private sector.

"HP and Eaton are working to introduce new technologies that will help businesses reduce power consumption by as much as 40 percent, lower costs and extend the life of data centers, decreasing the need for new facilities," said Doug Oathout, vice president of converged infrastructure at HP.