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Senate candidates share elite credentials, Tea Party banner

  • Article by: JONATHAN WEISMAN
  • New York Times
  • May 16, 2014 - 9:38 PM

– Ben Sasse and Tom Cotton have a lot in common: Republican candidacies for the Senate, Ivy League advanced degrees — a Yale Ph.D. for Sasse, a Harvard law degree for Cotton — and a tour of duty in the white-shoe world of management consulting.

And they are running as common-man conservatives from the heartland under the banner of the Tea Party.

The résumés of Sasse, who won the Republican primary in Nebraska on Tuesday, and Cotton, who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., do not exactly fit the profile of populists. That is especially true for the lines dedicated to the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Co., firms that advise corporations on strategy, efficiency and ways to increase profitability.

In Sasse’s case, he has used ties to McKinsey to burnish his private-sector credentials, but in the process, he has stretched the point.

He says on his campaign website that he “joined McKinsey & Company, advising leaders in times of crisis.” He was actually a “special adviser” to the firm, on an hourly contract — never an employee.

“Ben did a variety of work for a cross-section of clients while he was an external adviser to McKinsey,” said Jordan Gehrke, a Sasse campaign official, who suggested that it was a distinction without a difference.

Sasse has spent most of his adult life either in doctoral study, working at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration, teaching at the University of Texas or serving as the president of Midland University in Nebraska.

Most of Cotton’s adult life has been in academia and the military, and he has spent a year in Congress. His time at McKinsey was also barely more than a year, during which time his group leader, Bob Kocher, immersed him in the intricacies — and the value — of the health care law. Kocher, as a senior Obama White House official, was one of the law’s primary architects.

This campaign cycle, McKinsey employees have favored Democrats only slightly, giving Democratic candidates $74,400 and Republican candidates $72,800.

But in 2012, 64 percent of McKinsey employee contributions went to Democrats. In 2010, it was 57 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

© 2014 Star Tribune