While Jeb Bush frequently is touted as both a two-term governor and a successful businessman, his often dubious record as an entrepreneur and investor has been widely documented over the past three decades.
The 62-year-old scion of a powerful political family and now an announced candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination was involved in a myriad business ventures dating back to the mid-1980s, The Washington Post noted on Monday in the latest media examination of Bush’s entrepreneurial exploits as he tried to amass his fortune.
Bush brokered numerous real estate deals in Miami, helped to arrange bank loans in Venezuela, marketed shoes in Panama, sought out Mexican investors for a building-materials company, advised transnational financial services firms — you name it. He also made a boatload of money by sitting on a handful of corporate boards. And ever since he left the Florida governor’s office in 2007, Bush — like Democrat Hillary Clinton — has raked in substantial income by giving speeches while also consulting and managing investments for others.
“Jeb Bush had a successful career in commercial real estate and business before serving as Florida’s governor,” Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush, told the Post. “He has always operated with the highest level of integrity throughout his business career.”
And yet the Post’s lengthy review of Bush’s business career — culled from records, lawsuits, interviews and newspapers accounts dating back more than 30 years — reveals a picture of a young man on the make who “often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgement and exposed him to reputational risks.”
Five of Bush’s former business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. Bush has disavowed any knowledge of the wrongdoing and conceded that some of the businessmen he met in Florida took advantage of his relative youth and naiveté.
One thing that comes through loud and clear in the Post report is that Jeb Bush had no compunction about trading on his family name in trying to make a buck.
Major case in point: In early 1989, seven weeks after his father, George H.W. Bush, took office as president, Jeb Bush took a trip to Nigeria with the executive of a Florida company called Moving Water Industries. Bush had just been hired to help market the firm’s water pumps.
With no less than a special escort from the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Bush and his new boss met with the nation’s political and religious leaders as part of the company’s effort to land a deal that would be worth $80 million.
“My father is the president of the United States, duly elected by people that have an interest in improving ties everywhere,” the young Bush told the group. “The fact that you have done this today is something I will report back to him very quickly when I get back to the United States.”
Just days after Bush returned to the U.S., his father sent the president of Nigeria a handwritten note thanking him for hosting his son. Not surprisingly, Moving Water Industries eventually landed the deals it was seeking, according to the Post.
Although Republicans are prepared to go it alone on tax reform, President Trump suggested creating a bipartisan working group on the topic during a Wednesday meeting with senators from both parties. Some senators were open to the idea, but it doesn’t look like Republicans have much interest in slowing down the process with in-depth negotiations. “I don’t really personally see the benefit of creating additional structure. I think we’ve got all the tools we need,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who attended the meeting, according to Politico. Democrats appear skeptical, too. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he told Trump that the distance between what Republicans were saying about their plan and what it actually does is a serious problem.
White House officials tell USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla that President Trump will include a number of compromises to limit his tax plan’s benefits for the wealthy when he promotes the blueprint next month:
“The compromises will include ending a 23.8% preferential tax rate for hedge-fund managers, or the so-called carried interest rate, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told USA TODAY. … Retaining parts of a state and local tax deduction that benefits many middle-class families in blue states is also an area where Trump is expecting compromise.”
Trump campaigned on raising the carried interest rate, saying its beneficiaries are “getting away with murder.” But changes to the carried interest rate may run into opposition from House Republicans, and the tweaks appear unlikely to win any Democratic support.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers made his distaste for the Trump administration’s tax framework clear last week when he said Republicans were using “made-up” claims about the plan and its effects. Summers expanded his criticism on Tuesday in a blog post that took aim at the report released Monday by the Council of Economic Advisers and chair Kevin Hassett, which seeks to justify the administration’s claim that its tax plan will result in a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family.
Never one to mince words, Summers says the CEA analysis is “some combination of dishonest, incompetent and absurd.” The pay raise figure is indefensible, since “there is no peer-reviewed support for his central claim that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would raise wages by $4000 per worker.” In the end, Summers says that “if a Ph.D student submitted the CEA analysis as a term paper in public finance, I would be hard pressed to give it a passing grade.”
One of the authors cited in the CEA paper also has some concerns. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai tweeted Tuesday that the CEA analysis “misinterprets” a 2007 paper he co-wrote on the dynamics of the corporate tax burden. Desai’s research has found a connection between business tax cuts and wage growth, but not as large as the CEA paper claims. “Cutting corporate taxes will help wages but exaggeration only serves to undercut the reasonableness of the core argument,” Desai wrote.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Monday that tax reform has to happen this year, even if it means Congress has to stay in session longer. "I think we have a unique window in time right now, but unfortunately we keep losing days to this window,” he said. “The opportunity is now." House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week he’d keep members over Christmas if that’s what it takes. And Ryan predicted Monday that tax reform would pass the House by early next month and then get through the Senate to reach the president’s desk by the end of the year. But there are plenty of skeptics out there, given the hurdles. Issac Boltansky, an analyst at the investment bank Compass Point, told Business Insider, "The idea of getting tax reform done this year is a farcical fantasy. Lawmakers have neither the time nor the capacity to formulate and clear a tax reform package in 2017."