John Kasich Says His Time at Lehman Brothers Helped Him Understand How Business Works

The Ohio governor has been criticized over his role at the now-defunct financial services company.

Ohio Governor John Kasich gives his speech announcing his 2016 Presidential candidacy at the Ohio Student Union, at The Ohio State University on July 21, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.

Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images

At one point during his first event in New Hampshire after announcing he was running for president, John Kasich turned to the cameras in the room just to make sure his point wasn't missed.

"I learned a lot about the way America works when I worked at Lehman Brothers,'' Kasich said to the cameras gathered at a town hall meeting at Rivier University in Nashua.

Kasich, 63, the two-term Ohio governor, who on Tuesday became the 16th Republican to jump into the presidential race, was responding to criticisms from Democrats that his stint as a managing director in investment banking at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is a black mark against his candidacy.

Democrats have criticized Kasich and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who also worked for Lehman Brothers, as profiting from Wall Street while the firm collapsed in 2008 and ushered in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

"He couldn’t be more out of touch with the millions of Americans who struggled to make ends meet after the financial meltdown,'' U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, said of Kasich in a blog posting for The Hill

"The last thing we need in a president is the Lehman Brothers approach to America,'' TJ Helmstetter, Midwest press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement after Kasich's comment in Nashua.

Also on Bloomberg Politics: John Kasich’s Lehman Days Create Rorshach Test for Viewing His Career

Kasich made it clear that he'll continue talking about his business experience on the campaign trail because he met people including the founders of Google and learned what it takes to create jobs.

"I learned how entrepreneurs worked; I learned how boards of directors think,'' Kasich said in Nashua. "If you want to rebuild this economy, you better have somebody elected that understands the economic situation in this country and what makes businesses invest.''

Kasich's former colleagues at Lehman have described him as a facilitator, forging relationships and working with Lehman teams on initial public offerings, debt offerings and other deals in areas including manufacturing, media and technology.

Kasich is spending the next two days in New Hampshire as part of his presidential campaign roll-out, followed by trips to Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan.

While New Hampshire is particularly attractive for Kasich because his record appeals to fiscal conservatives there, the governor will also campaign in the other early-voting states, said John Weaver, his chief strategist.

"We're going to compete in every state,'' Weaver said in an interview before Kasich's announcement in Columbus. "Our goal is really to be disciplined enough not to get between he and the voters.''

While Kasich's decision to expand Medicaid and his positions on immigration and the Common Core education standards don't endear him to some conservatives in Iowa, he can get support among Republicans there once voters hear from him, said Mary Ann Hanusa, an Iowa state representative from Council Bluffs. She accompanied Kasich on a June 24 trip to Iowa and traveled to Columbus for his announcement.

"He's going to play in Iowa,'' Hanusa said. "Iowa conservatives are not a monolithic bloc.''

Kasich, who has been languishing at about 2 percent in recent polls, has been airing televisions ads in New Hampshire in advance of his presidential announcement with hopes of polling high enough to be one of the 10 candidates included in the first Republican presidential debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

The ads were paid for by New Day for America, a 527 organization supporting Kasich's presidential bid that will soon file with the Federal Elections Commission as a super-PAC, New Day spokesman Matt David said.

Kasich acknowledged in response to a question in Nashua about the campaign finance system that he won't have as much money as other candidates "but hopefully, I'll have enough.''

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