Dec 14, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: McCarthy eyes AI for new career, can imagine working with Musk

McCarthy leaves a GOP meeting at the Capitol at sunset on Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is exploring a new career that includes connecting the next-frontier worlds of space and AI with Washington, he told Axios during a more than hour-long exit interview at the Capitol.

Driving the news: McCarthy has been friends with Elon Musk for about a decade, and says he could imagine working with him or other future-tech moguls.

Why it matters: At a young-for-Congress 58, McCarthy intends to pursue another career — and make big money after 20+ years in state and federal elected office.

What he's saying: "I view AI as a positive," McCarthy told Axios in his temporary office at the Capitol. The ornate first-floor room was Rep. Nancy Pelosi's hideaway, before the GOP evicted her to make room for McCarthy after he lost the gavel.

  • "AI is where California is going to come back," he added. "The knowledge and capability of AI is streaming from California."
  • But McCarthy said government can't stay on the sidelines, and he'd like to help California and D.C. understand each other.

What's next: McCarthy will hit the paid speaking circuit hard. And he plans to write a memoir with juicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes about leading figures in both parties, plus his conversations with world leaders.

  • He also plans to continue helping House Republicans with fundraisers and advice, especially for members he helped get elected.
  • McCarthy's last day at the Capitol is Thursday, since the House is leaving for the holidays. He technically retires from the House at the end of the year, when he'll be back home in Bakersfield, Calif.
  • While still in the House, he hasn't made specific deals about his future. But aides, former aides and lawyers have been exploring options.

Behind the scenes: McCarthy and Musk got to know each other well back when McCarthy won passage of the SPACE Act of 2015, which he authored.

  • The two talk and text frequently, with the easy relationship that comes from having met before either attained the zenith of his powers.

The big picture: McCarthy also is very interested in futuristic defense tech, and wants to help make the procurement process more startup-friendly.

  • "I love entrepreneurs," said the former proprietor of his own small business, Kevin O's Deli.

Go deeper: McCarthy's legacy on tech

Go deeper