Jeb Bush made money the old fashioned way: from those seeking political access

REUTERS/David Becker
Jeb, who was born rich and has become richer, often received lucrative opportunities from businessmen who hoped to gain access to and help from the federal government when either Jeb’s father or his brother were president.

My buddy Tom Hamburger and his Washington Post colleague Robert O’Harrow published over the weekend the results of a deep dive into the business career of Jeb Bush. One of the main findings would be troubling if it weren’t so obvious:

Jeb, who was born rich and has become richer, often received lucrative opportunities from businessmen who hoped to gain access to and help from the federal government when either Jeb’s father or his brother were president. “It was a big deal,” one of his former colleagues from one of those ventures told the Post. “He could open doors we couldn’t.” It also seemed to have worked well for some of those who sought to benefit from associating with a member of the president’s family.

That should trouble us, but it’s a little late in the game to say that it should surprise us. And I don’t mean that comment to be about Bushes. It’s about how Washington really works.

The other finding is a bit more troubling. Jeb kept going into business with crooks. Jeb Bush “repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk,” the Post team wrote. But that is euphemistic compared to the blunt statement:

“Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté.”

When the Post reporters sought comment from one of Bush’s spokesters, here is the highly illuminating statement they received:

“Jeb Bush had a successful career in commercial real estate and business before serving as Florida’s governor,” said Kristy Campbell, a Bush spokeswoman. “He has always operated with the highest level of integrity throughout his business career.”

The Clintons’ tale

A Republican loyalist reading the above might think it’s typical of the liberal media to go after Bush and ignore the similar issues that surround the tale of how Bill and Hillary Clinton rose from “dead broke” when they left the White House to the fabulously wealthy plutocrats they are today. But you can think that only if you willfully blind yourself to the extensive work done by the “liberal media” on the operations of the Clinton Foundation, which has included taking many, many, very, very large contributions from those who might benefit from having friends and relatives in high government places.

Since leaving her cabinet post, Hillary has followed her husband into the racket of giving paid speeches, accepting six-figure fees for an hour or so’s work. But Hamburger and O’Harrow report that after leaving the governor’s office, Jeb made more than 100 speeches for fees of at least $50,000.

Jeb Bush also received at least $3 million in fees and grants of stocks for serving on the boards of six corporations. That’s the stockholders’ money, not mine, so maybe it’s none of my business. But by my lights, we should be troubled at how both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush got so rich.

Bush’s economy

Building on the Hamburger/O’Harrow piece, Paul Waldman (who writes for the Post’s Plum Line blog and also for the American Prospect) confessed that “if a bunch of corporations wanted to put me on their boards, where I’d make millions for doing almost nothing, I might take them up on it, too. It’s only problematic if Bush thinks that experience has really taught him how the economy works.”

Bush has suggested target numbers for what the U.S. economy might do under his Oval Office guidance that, Waldman says, would make him the most successful president in history. And Bush does suggest that his business experience is part of the reason he will be able to do that. Waldman (perhaps a tad sarcastically) concluded:

“It’s possible that when he finally releases the details [of his economic plan], Bush’s program will be so creative and transformative that it will blow everyone’s mind — and only a guy who had worked making deals for water pumps in Nigeria and real estate in Florida could have devised it. On the other hand, it might be pretty much what every other Republican advocates: cut taxes, cut regulations, await glorious new dawn of prosperity. I know which one I’m betting on.”

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Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/01/2015 - 09:27 am.

    There is only one word that fits politics


  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/01/2015 - 12:37 pm.

    Mr. Bush

    …has simply behaved as any self-respecting Republican plutocrat would do. What I find interesting is that the same sort of behavior on the part of the Clintons produces teeth-gnashing rage among the very same people that Bill and Hillary have worked so hard to emulate. That doesn’t make cashing in on one’s connections more admirable, it simply makes it a bipartisan exercise…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/01/2015 - 01:44 pm.

      Nouveau riche

      That’s because the Clinton’s are new money,
      while the Bushes are aristocratic old money.
      How far back do you have to go to find a Bush who worked for a living?
      Hint: Samuel Prescott Bush (Jeb and George’s great great grandfather).

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 07/02/2015 - 06:54 am.


      If it’s a bipartisan behavior, then why is it labeled a Republican behavior?

      As to why it causes ‘rage’ amongst those on the right, what position of authority was Jeb Bush in while he was speaking? Was he Secretary of State? Was he accepting money from companies and countries that he would then make policy about?
      Yes, yes, there is the obvious accusation that people were paying him money in hopes that he could help influence things through his brother and other connections. Or even in hopes of future influence. And yes, that does bother me. I dearly hope that he doesn’t win the nomination for the Republican party. How many members of the Democratic party hope that Clinton doesn’t win the nomination due to what looks like obvious corruption? If Republicans vow to not vote for Jeb over this, will Dems vow not to vote for Hillary?

  3. Submitted by joe smith on 07/01/2015 - 12:43 pm.

    Love the Clinton disclaimer but of course Bush is worse. Waiting for Hillary to fire off her proposal to fix an economy that retracted last qtr (Obama has taken us from the brink of disaster to a retracting economy in 7 yrs). I bet it has to do with 1% are bad folks, tax the rich and more social programs for everyone. Throw in some division politics and you have her platform
    There is no doubt in my mind that both Clinton and Bush profited from their political power. That is why our current system is broken. I get a chuckle out of how liberals try to paint Bush as corrupt and Clinton as one of the us, the 99%ers. They are both about as common folk as Putin is just another Russian…

    • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 07/01/2015 - 05:39 pm.

      Free market alert!

      If you think the economy has retracted from what it was on January 20, 2009, I’ll have what you’re smoking. Just think of where we’d be if the GOP hadn’t spend the past 7 years trying to sabotage the economy for political reasons and instead had try to do something positive. But it’s always party before country for them.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 07/02/2015 - 07:23 am.

        It retracted in Obama’s 7th yr after he saved us with the 1 trillion stimulus package (shovel ready really wasn’t shovel ready), the 30 hr work week, war on coal,logging and mining, more regulations than you could shake a stick at, average household incomes dropping and more folks on Govt aid than ever. All this saving in his 7th year. Time to stop blaming Bush, I hear it is as hard as quitting heroin, but he’s been gone for 2 terms.

  4. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 07/01/2015 - 12:48 pm.


    I believe Mr. Bush released 33 years of tax returns along with his emails while Governor. In contrast to…..we know who.

  5. Submitted by Bob Rumpza on 07/01/2015 - 01:36 pm.


    Jeb was born on third base and woke up believing he hit a triple.

  6. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 07/02/2015 - 07:10 am.

    ‘Republican Loyalist’

    I’d say that a Republican loyalist (or even someone like me who only usually votes GOP) would say that the bias angle here is that the only way that Clinton’s dirty money issues are mentioned is in a ‘to be sure’ paragraph about a Republican. I’d also say that the way that paragraph glosses over the position of influence that each held while giving speeches shows some bias. Bush wasn’t taking money from people that he was making rulings for. Clinton was and it looks like the green stuff changed her mind on occasion.
    That loyalist might also take issue with how the paragraph fails to mention the criminal connections of some of the people around the Clintons. Google ‘Jeffrey Epstein’ for instance, but be prepared. Some of it is not pretty stuff. Talk about “repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk,”!

    It’s also a bit off putting that only a ‘Republican Loyalist’ would see a problem with this difference in treatment. After years and years of talking about dirty money in politics, it seems that most Dems want to simply ignore the obvious problems with the behavior of their front-runner. If it’s brought up, it is ‘teeth-gnashing rage’ or Republican behavior. It’s only some kind of a right wing accusation and decent people aren’t really bothered by it, right?
    If the rule is that this is only a problem when the other people do it, then frankly we should all ignore any bleatings about ‘dirty money’ from Democratic loyalists.

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2015 - 09:46 am.

    Guilt by association

    Please provide some documentation that Clinton’s money was obtained illegally,
    or failing that, unethically.
    Other than that, it’s a case of the the free enterprise system at work.
    There’s been a lot of mud thrown at the Clinton’s, but little of it sticks; mainly for lack of proof.
    Remember, when the Republicans impeached Clinton, the best they could come up with was lying to Congress about his sexual behavior (of questionable relevance to the impeachment of the chief executive as defined in the Constitution). And they failed to convict even on that.
    ‘Whitewater’ went under the bridge and trickled away.

    Hillary is not my candidate of choice (I’m with Bernie) and I tend to agree with Dennis (it happens occasionally) but there’s not a lot of difference between being married to money (which Bill Clinton didn’t have when they were married, BTW) and being born to it like Romney, McCain and the Bushes.

    And then there’s Christie.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 07/02/2015 - 10:56 am.

      Guilt by association

      “Please provide some documentation that Clinton’s money was obtained illegally,
      or failing that, unethically.”

      What is the proof that Jeb Bush obtained his money illegally or unethically? With both of them they took money to give speeches. The money could have been (almost certainly was) an attempt to buy favor with someone that was politically connected. It looks that way and frankly smells to high heaven.
      Isn’t this what people who complain about money in politics mean when they say ‘follow the money’?

      What level of proof would you like? And would you possibly accept that same level if it was a Republican under the microscope?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2015 - 01:37 pm.

        You used the term ‘dirty money’

        so the onus is on you to back it up.
        So far all I see is opinion.
        And an attempt to change the subject.

  8. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/02/2015 - 10:18 pm.

    Can’t we all get along????

    Here is something almost all are in agreement on: our political class, irrespective of political leanings, has become entrenched and addicted to a lifestyle of power, amenities, money and the illusion that they are serving the public good. This addiction only becomes stronger with time. How do we help these addicts break their addiction? Term limits: 2 – 6 year terms in the Senate and 3 – 4 year terms in the House. Those opposing term limits often cite the need for the wisdom and experience of long term legislators. These same long term legislators are the leaders that have guided their respective bodies to 8% approval ratings. The “who are the bigger scammers: Clintons or Bushes” debate here is the political cover that our entrenched addicts need to distract us and protect their self interest. Let’s all agree that we know the problem, know the solution, and demand the change a strong majority agree on.

  9. Submitted by Gregg Larson on 07/10/2015 - 09:50 am.

    Jeb Bush Tax Returns

    According to the tax returns that Jeb Bush recently released, he earned $7.3 million in 2013 and his charitable contributions totaled a paltry $110,616. That’s 1.5% of his income – not so compassionate conservatism.

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