After his two terms as Florida’s Governor, Jeb Bush served on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards. A close look at these organizations uncovers a number of examples of significant financial support for liberal causes.
For example, in 2010 Bush joined the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable network founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to a report by the Miami Herald.
Bloomberg has drawn scorn from conservatives on a long list of issues, from his funding of the gun control group Moms Demand Action to his support for “nanny-state” policies such as banning large sodas. Bush served on the board until stepping down at the end of 2014.
The Herald describes several initiatives funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies during Bush’s tenure that “seem out of step with a likely GOP presidential contender,” including a $50 million award in 2011 to the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, another $50 million program developed in partnership with Planned Parenthood to offer “reproductive health services” in Third World countries, a scholarship grant program for young undocumented immigrants to attend college in the United States, and a $6 million grant to the Environmental Defense Fund to “minimize the environmental impacts of natural gas operations through hydraulic fracturing.”
Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Herald that board members “did not vote on or approve individual projects or programs,” which was confirmed by Bloomberg spokeswoman Meghan Womack.
“Governor Bush was honored to serve on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which does a lot of good work across the world,” added Campbell. “Governor Bush and Mayor Bloomberg have great mutual respect for one another. While they disagree on several policy issues, both share a passion for improving education in America.”
Bush’s work on the board for Tenet Healthcare Corporation, a publicly-traded hospital and healthcare services company, is also raising questions about conflicts of interest with the Republican platform. Back in March, the Washington Examiner reported that Bush’s “lucrative seat” on Tenet’s board had earned him more than $2 million from 2007 to 2014, when he resigned to explore a presidential run.
The issue, according to the Examiner’s Byron York, is that “Tenet strongly supported the passage of Obamacare and has profited enormously from it,” and Bush “remained mostly silent about the biggest public policy fight in a generation” during 2009 and 2010 as Obamacare was being debated in Congress.
Bush spokesman Tim Miller defended the Governor, noting that Bush was not in Congress at the time and “he did not have a very big footprint as a guy on the cable news circuit in the years after he left the governor’s office. He was focused on business.”
Miller adamantly denied that Bush’s role with Tenet kept him silent on the issue of Obamacare. “Absolutely not,” Miller said. “He forcefully advocated against it in board meetings, to the point that it bubbled up in public. When asked about it, he was very clear that he was in opposition to it.”
However, as York noted, Bush rarely made any public comments about Obamacare until March 22, 2010 — the day after the law passed the House and Senate. In a Fox News Channel appearance that day, Bush sharply criticized Obamacare, calling it a “massive tax increase” that he predicted would create a revolt “against this government takeover of our lives” in the upcoming elections that fall.
Too little, too late, in York’s opinion: “It was a tough, far-ranging indictment — delivered the day after the bill had been safely passed into law,” he wrote. “Back when it was all on the line, and Republicans were gathering their forces in a desperate attempt to stop Obamacare, Jeb Bush mostly held his tongue.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.