Jeb Bush—along with three sitting governors, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and John Kasich—spent last weekend in Las Vegas for the “Sheldon Primary,” appealing to the uber-wealthy, ultra-conservative Sheldon Adelson at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Adelson, a casino magnate, is wondering where to place his bets in 2016—and with Christie in deep trouble, Bush is getting a close look.
There’s been a flurry of Bush-is-running pieces in the media since mid-March, a clear sign that Bush’s team is orchestrating something, sending up a trial balloon. Fox News notes that if he runs he might have to go up against a protégé, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, but that nevertheless:
A powerful network of Jeb Bush loyalists, from previous high-ranking campaign staffers to top donors, increasingly have been communicating and coalescing as they await a decision from the former Florida Republican governor on whether he will run for president in 2016. "We are keeping our powder dry."
Over at the Washington Post, a piece on Bush’s incipient campaign provides a number of details on the who’s who on Jeb’s team. Here’s the intro, in the piece by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa:
Many of the Republican Party’s most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy.
According to the article, Bush is keeping in touch with key politicos around the country, such as Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and he’s in regular touch with Sally Bradshaw, his political aide, strategist Mike Murphy and fundraiser Jack Oliver. He’s also brought on board a spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell, and travels alongside Josh Venable, an official as Bush’s education foundation who “serves on the side as Bush’s liaison with big donors,” the Post reported.
Like Christie, Bush would be the candidate of the GOP’s Establishment. It’s the millionaires and billionaires—literally the 1 percent of the 1 percent—who’ve been courting both, as likely opponents of the Tea Party wing of the Republican party. And like Christie, who’s alienated some on the far-right for his relatively mainstream positions—accepting the Medicaid provision of the Affordable Care Act for New Jersey, slamming critics of “sharia law,” acknowledging the need for gun control, and avoiding taking hard-right positions on issues such as immigration and gay rights—Bush has annoyed far-right Republican and Tea Party types on a number of fronts, including immigration and education, where Bush (like President Obama) supports the Common Core for schools.
I ran for office three times. The pledge was presented to me three times. I never signed the pledge. I cut taxes every year I was governor. I don't believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people. Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad—they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party—and I don't—as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement, doesn't allow for finding some common ground.
George Will, writing April 2 in the Washington Post, worries that hard-line, compromise-hating folks among the “flammable Republican base” will blow up Bush before he gets started:
[Bush] wisely favors immigration reform responsive to the needs of the US workforce and the realities of the 12 million who are not here legally but are neither going to “self-deport” or be deported. His enthusiasm for the Common Core is misplaced, but conservatives, in judging it, should judge Bush with a generosity he has earned by his exemplary record as an education reformer favoring school choice.
Unfortunately, there are too many Republicans who, honing their knives and lengthening their lists of unforgivable heresies, seem to derive more satisfaction from burning Republicans at the stake than from defeating Democrats.
If anyone is honing their knives to attack Bush, however, they ought to take a look at Bush’s involvement with the failed firm, Lehman Brothers, whose collapse helped precipitate the 2008 financial crisis. Jeb Bush had the unfortunate timing to sign on as a consultant to Lehman Brothers just before its fall, and not only that: the state of Florida may have lost, and lost big, with Lehman. All this is certainly worth looking at.
The Florida State Board of Administration, which oversaw an investment fund of $26 billion dollars on behalf of over 1,000 school districts, towns and local agencies in the state lost hundreds of millions of dollars because it invested in sub-prime mortgage derivatives sold by Lehman Brothers. The SBA was supposed to keep its money in safe investments because it was used to pay teachers, repair roads and other everyday needs of the towns and schools. For years it was invested in safe Treasury bonds, other government debt and corporate bonds.
That started to change in 2007 just when the sub-prime mortgage crisis exploded and the housing market was collapsing. At the start of the year the SBA started first to tiptoe into mortgage-backed securities. But when headlines blared that Bear Stearns was liquidating its $4 billion dollar hedge funds because the mortgage-backed securities they held collapsed, the SBA did the opposite and started buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of such investments, mostly from Lehman Brothers.
That summer, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was hired as a consultant to Lehman Brothers. Bush claims that he had nothing to do with the sale of the bonds to the state, that he was involved with the private equity side of the bank, but he has not answered questions about how his connections with the SBA and other officials might have facilitated the transactions. Until he left office in January 2007, Bush, as governor, was one of the three board members of the SBA and obviously knew its executives well.
In November of that year, as more and more of the fund’s holdings were downgraded to below acceptable risk levels for its investments, school districts and local agencies that had money in it took it out. By the end of November they had liquidated about $12 billion of the fund. But it still lost significantly when Lehman tanked.