Shiny New Toys: Jeb Bush Reaches for ‘Reformicons’ and Social Media ‘Gurus’ To Staff Campaign

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The long list of serious staffing problems for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s likely 2016 presidential campaign continues, and the latest raises serious questions for donors pumping money into his campaign: Is the brother and son of two former U.S. presidents ready for prime time?

Breitbart News can reveal that the Bush campaign has been in talks with a high-ranking former staffer to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—something that’s sure to further infuriate conservatives.

A former George W. Bush White House official confirmed to Breitbart News that Jeb Bush’s team is discussing a potential policy position with April Ponnuru—Cantor’s Young Guns PAC staffer, who helped create and push so-called “Reform Conservatives,” or “reformicons,” in the mold of Cantor and former House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Such thinking has Republicans, instead of supporting tax cuts, pushing government subsidies and tax credits as ways to further policy objectives.

“A group of young conservatives, dubbed ‘reformicons,’ are making inroads among Republican presidential candidates by arguing the party’s traditional reliance on broad-based tax cuts, GOP orthodoxy for a generation, isn’t enough to cure middle-class woes,” the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about reformicons. “Instead, they are calling for crafting subsidies, tax credits and other public-policy tools based on conservative philosophies and tastes to help the unemployed and other struggling middle-income households.”

Talking to an ex-Cantor staffer for a campaign job is news in and of itself given that Cantor was defeated in a primary by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) due to his support for amnesty. Cantor and Bush appeared at a fundraiser in the Richmond area together this past week, and when Breitbart News broke that story, Bush’s spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said that “Congressman Cantor and Governor Bush are friends and have known each other for years.”

The former Bush White House staffer was aghast that Jeb Bush would talk to people like Ponnuru for campaign gigs.

“It’s amazing that Jeb is taking professional dilettantes like this seriously,” the former Bush White House official who confirmed to Breitbart News the Jeb Bush team is talking to Ponnuru for a job. “First, trying to micromanage the economy at a household level through subsidies and tax credits will fail and create horrible second order effects and second, it’s what the Democrats stand for – it is what we are against. These guys have no idea how the economy works but probably think they sound really smart talking to each other at cocktails parties. They aren’t.”

George W. Bush’s economic council head Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw mocked reformicons in the Wall Street Journal piece, too. “I don’t think the government is very good at targeting specific outcomes,” Mankiw said. That means two of his brother’s top staffers from the George W. Bush White House—Mankiw and the other source cited here—are laughing openly at the policy positions Jeb Bush is seeking to take, perhaps indicating an early divide in the Bush family.

Lots of Republican voters liked George W. Bush, but that doesn’t mean they’ll warm up to Jeb Bush. Jeb, for his part, has actively and publicly distanced himself from his brother.

Speaking to Chicago’s Council on Global Affairs last week, Jeb Bush praised his father and brother saying they each “shaped America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office.”

“But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences,” he said. “New circumstances require new approaches.”

The aforementioned Wall Street Journal piece notes that Ramesh Ponnuru—April’s husband and a National Review columnist and leading right-of-center thinker—recently met with Jeb Bush as well.

April Ponnuru hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Bush’s spokeswoman Campbell told Breitbart News that she couldn’t comment on the matter, saying in an email that “on any pending personnel hires, we don’t discuss.”

This comes after a dustup a week or so ago between House Speaker John Boehner and Jeb Bush’s team over Boehner’s on-staff amnesty advocate Becky Tallent. Bush’s campaign and Tallent were in talks for a potential immigration policy adviser role, and after Breitbart News first reported that, Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel went on the record on Twitter to deny it. After Steel’s denial, however, a Jeb Bush spokeswoman confirmed to Breitbart News that the report that Bush’s team was in job talks with Tallent was accurate.

Meanwhile, in addition to this “reformicon” and big government Republican-ism that Jeb Bush is aiming to embrace via his campaign staff, he has also had major issues as he’s tried to hire social media gurus for his campaign.

Bush had to recently dump a tech staffer just days after he hired him due to “insensitive comments” the staffer made over the years via Twitter.

“The Right to Rise PAC accepted Ethan Czahor’s resignation today,” Bush’s spokeswoman Campbell said in a statement after Bush’s PAC, Right to Rise, saw Czahor resign. “While Ethan has apologized for regrettable and insensitive comments, they do not reflect the views of Governor Bush or his organization and it is appropriate for him to step aside. We wish him the best.”

Czahor was hired to be Bush’s chief technology officer after co-founding But right after Bush hired him, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported, Czahor was caught deleting a number of Tweets that included calling several groups of women “sluts.”

Another new hire is raising some eyebrows. Communications director Tim Miller comes with an impressive resume: He led America Rising PAC, which went after Democrat senators last fall, specifically releasing the video that wounded Bruce Braley in Iowa and helped make Joni Ernst a senator. His PAC consulted on Nikki Haley’s governor’s race in South Carolina, Tom Cotton’s Senate race in Arkansas and Ken Cuccinelli’s bid for governor in Virginia in 2013.

But Breitbart News can reveal that back in 2010 Miller wrote on his Facebook page that he thinks Americans are “too stupid” to run their own government. “I like all kinds of activist judges,” Miller wrote. “Fat kinds, skinny kinds, red kinds, blue kinds. The people are too stupid to govern themselves. This is very cognitively consonant for me.”

As of Monday afternoon, Miller had deleted the Facebook posting. But it was available to the public for nearly five years. Miller is openly gay and the Facebook posting was published on Aug. 4, 2010—the day a federal judge overturned Proposition 8, the California ballot proposition where voters in that state banned gay marriage. It appears Miller was—in a snarky way, no doubt—praising the ruling that federal Judge Vaughn Walker made to reject Prop 8 and allow gay couples to marry in California against the wishes of the voters.

Bush’s spokeswoman Campbell said the content of the posting was a joke.

“This was very clearly a joke,” she said in an emailed statement to Breitbart News. But Campbell hasn’t answered follow-up questions about the context of the posting or about Miller’s political stances on the issue he was discussing—gay marriage—in the posting and she hasn’t provided any explanation when asked for why Miller deleted the Facebook posting on Monday of this week, as it was about to become a campaign issue.

Miller himself echoed Campbell’s claim that it was a joke.

“This was obviously a joke/sarcasm. I of course was not being serious and have worked with you guys long enough for you to know that,” Miller said in an email.

Miller, like Cambell, hasn’t answered follow-up questions about the context of the posting or about why he chose to delete it on Monday, right before Breitbart News was set to write a story about it.

When Bush hired him, Miller was praised by the mainstream media. Politico’s top reporter Mike Allen wrote a glowing piece about how Bush hiring him was so important.

“Big hire for Jeb: Tim Miller as comms director,” was the headline of Allen’s story.

“Miller is an aggressive, younger operative who can be expected to inject a pugilistic style into Bush’s high command. America Rising – based in Arlington, Va. — is the two-year-old GOP opposition-research group that relentlessly spattered Democratic Senate candidates during the last cycle,” Allen wrote about Miller, who also worked for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign—about the most glowing endorsement Allen gives to anyone.

Allen also noted how Miller “is one of the party’s most active operatives on Twitter” and social media. But that was written before Miller’s Facebook post from 2010 calling Americans “too stupid” to govern themselves was discovered.

Miller was praised by several other mainstream media outlets too, with almost every single one of them writing warm endorsements of the affable press flack.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.