Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wanted to cash out after he left office, but those business entanglements may hurt him if he chooses to run for the GOP nomination in a party that is increasingly becoming opposed to crony capitalism.
According to a report in The New York Times, “Bush left public office seven years ago with a net worth of $1.3 million and an unapologetic determination to expand his wealth, telling friends that his finances had suffered during his time in government.”
Bush tried to prop up Lehman Brothers before it collapsed and almost took down the financial system with it, eventually costing taxpayers billions of dollars to bail out banks. This galvanized what would become the Tea Party movement. He has also been associated with some troubled and shady companies and executives, as well as a company that promoted Obamacare.
Bush’s associations with Lehman Brothers may prove more troubling for someone the Tea Party already distrusts for his unabashed support of amnesty and the Common Core:
Records and interviews show, for example, that Mr. Bush participated in the fevered, last-ditch efforts to prop up Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street bank weighed down by toxic mortgage-backed securities. As a paid adviser to the company in the summer of 2008, he met with Carlos Slim Helú, a Mexican billionaire, as Lehman sought to persuade Mr. Slim to make a sizable investment in the firm, emails show.
Within a year of departing the Statehouse, he had signed on as consultant to Lehman Brothers, where he was eventually enlisted to reach out to Mr. Slim in a plan code-named Project Verde. Mr. Slim, however, was not interested in making a major investment in Lehman Brothers or striking up a joint venture with it. “Project Verde was unsuccessful,” Mr. Bush wrote to a Lehman colleague in early July 2008.
Lehman executives talked openly about the value of Mr. Bush’s family connections in the midst of the crisis. Lehman’s chief executive, Richard S. Fuld Jr., discussed the possibility of having Mr. Bush ask his brother President Bush to persuade the British prime minister to allow Lehman’s emergency merger with a British bank, according to testimony from the company’s bankruptcy case. Mr. Fuld never followed through, and Mr. Bush did not call the president, a spokeswoman for him said.
Barclays, which took over Lehman Brothers, reportedly pays Bush “in excess of $1 million a year,” according to the report.
The Times also reports that Bush was a paid director for a company, Tenet Health Care, that aggressively supported and promoted Obamacare because it would be profitable for the company. He may have to explain his connections to GOP primary voters–and an increasing number of Americans–who staunchly oppose the law.
InnoVida brought Bush on board its company in 2007, but the company went bankrupt in 2011, and its “founder went to jail and investors lost nearly all of their money,” the Times reports: “It turned out that the leaders of InnoVida, a manufacturer of inexpensive building materials, had faked documents, lied about the health of the business and misappropriated $40 million in company funds, records show.”
A Democrat “who lost millions on his investment in InnoVida,” however, said that once he told Bush about the “major problems inside the company, the former governor acted swiftly and forcefully to investigate them” to protect the shareholders.
Nonetheless, Bush has been accused of “insufficient oversight” at a company that lost more than three-quarters of its value:
Mr. Bush sat on the board of Swisher Hygiene, a soap maker, at a time when, its executives acknowledged, their financial statements were unreliable and their accounting practices inadequate. That admission contributed to a plunge in stock price that has wiped out more than three-quarters of Swisher’s value and touched off a wave of shareholder lawsuits. Several have named Mr. Bush as a defendant, accusing him and fellow board members of insufficient oversight.
The Times implies that Bush may not run for president if he does not want to break up his lucrative business portfolio.