Before he became mayor of his hometown of South Bend, Indiana, the Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg worked for the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. He has used this brief experience to distinguish his record from that of longtime politicians such as Joe Biden and critics of private-sector excesses such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
But voters have no idea what kind of work Buttigieg did, or who he worked for, during his three years at McKinsey. And he won’t tell us. The candidate says he signed a nondisclosure agreement, from which the company has not released him.
“This is not a tenable situation,” the New York Times editorial board declared this week, calling his silence “inconsistent with the manner in which Mr. Buttigieg has chosen to present himself to voters.”
The Times is right. And I’ll go even further. Buttigieg not only has an obligation to come clean about his corporate experience. Unless the work he did at McKinsey is utterly vile, it would be strategically wise to break his nondisclosure agreement and dare McKinsey to censure its most public alumnus.
What’s the worst that could happen? McKinsey’s PR team could release a statement expressing deep disappointment, or declare that it is considering legal action, or even announce immediately that it is suing for a nondisclosure violation. Buttigieg should welcome the showdown.