Jeb Bush

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Jeb Bush speaking at 2015 CPAC conference. Photo: Michael Vadon.

John Ellis "Jeb" Bush was the Republican Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and is a Republican candidate for President in the 2016 election cycle.[1][2] Jeb Bush is a son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and brother of former President George Walker Bush.[1]

Bush's "tenure as governor of Florida was marked by the privatization of traditional state services," according to The New York Times.[2] In 2008 Bush founded the nonprofit education reform group the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and its affiliated group Chiefs for Change, which advocate for the expansion of school vouchers and privatization of public education, and which have been criticized for influencing state education policy-making to benefit the business interests of their corporate, for-profit funders.[3]

2016 Presidential Campaign

File:Jeb Bush 2016 logo.jpg
Logo of Jeb Bush's 2016 campaign. Source: Jeb Bush.


Bush announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Monday, June 15, 2015.[2] Before his announcement he had conducted heavy fundraising, raising concerns about possible violations of campaign finance rules (see below).[4]

Key Campaign Staff

  • Danny Diaz, Campaign Manager: served as campaign advisor to Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign and was on the communications teams for John McCain's 2008 campaign and George W. Bush's 2004 campaign.[5] Many had expected longtime Iowa strategist David Kochel to take the Campaign Manager role. However, Bush downplayed any controversy and said he was naming Kochel as Chief Strategist to "kind of split up the duties."[6]
  • David Kochel, Chief Strategist: led Mitt Romney's campaigns in Iowa in 2008 and 2012.[5]
  • Sally Bradshaw, Senior Advisor: a close advisor of Bush since his 1998 campaign for governor of Florida.[5][7]
  • Mike Murphy, Manager of Right to Rise USA Super PAC: a close advisor of Bush since his 1998 campaign for governor of Florida.[5]
  • John Downs, Media Director: worked for the 2000 George W. Bush campaign as well as Ron Paul and Ted Cruz.[5]
  • Justin Muzinich, Policy Director: vice chairman of Muzinich and Co., an investment firm in New York, and previously worked at Morgan Stanley and at a hedge fund.[5]

Bush Gave Keynote at 2015 Summit of Kochs' Americans for Prosperity

In June 2015 Bush was announced as the keynote speaker for the August 2015 summit organized by Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing group founded by Charles and David Koch and a key part of the right-wing Koch network's infrastructure. Bush had not previously appeared to be a favorite of the Kochs, who opposed many of George W. Bush's foreign and economic policies, according to Mother Jones.[8] His speech was greeted with "respectful but restrained applause." Cruz Outshines Bush at Americans for Prosperity Summit, Associated Press, Aug. 22, 2015.</ref>

FEC Complaint Alleges Bush Broke Federal Campaign Finance Law

Like several other likely candidates who had not made an official declaration, Bush spent the first half of 2015 meeting with major donors and interest groups, traveling in early primary states, and holding fundraisers for his super PAC, Right to Rise,[9] with tickets to some events costing as much as $100,000.[10] The legality of apparent-but-undeclared candidates soliciting unlimited funds and coordinating with their super PACs without making any disclosures was disputed.[11]

Trevor Potter, former general counsel for the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and president of the Campaign Legal Center, told the National Journal, "What we're seeing is effectively a farce being played out here, where each of these candidates—in every sense of the word—is avoiding the longstanding requirements of federal election law... It's very much a wink and a nod, we all know this, this is a game."[11]

By conducting a major fundraising effort, building campaign infrastructure, and traveling extensively in primary states without following the fundraising and reporting requirements set out by federal law, Bush exhibited "total disregard" for campaign finance law, the Campaign Legal Center argued in a March 2015 complaint.[12]

The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed complaints against Bush and three other likely presidential candidates--Scott Walker, Martin O'Malley, and Rick Santorum--with the Federal Election Commission on March 31, 2015.[13] The complaint against Bush argues that despite the lack of an official declaration of candidacy, there is "reason to believe that Jeb Bush has decided to become a candidate, as indicated by his activities on behalf of Right to Rise Super PAC to raise 'funds in excess of what could reasonably be expected to be used for exploratory activities' and 'designed to amass campaign funds that would be spent after he or she becomes a candidate,' rendering inapplicable the 'testing the waters' exception to 'candidate' status." Therefore, he "has failed to comply with the candidate registration and reporting well as the candidate contribution limits and restrictions" established in federal law.[13]

Paul S. Ryan, Senior Counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, stated,

"These 2016 presidential contenders must take the American people for fools—flying repeatedly to Iowa and New Hampshire to meet with party leaders and voters, hiring campaign staff, and raising millions of dollars from deep-pocketed mega donors, all the while denying that they are even 'testing the waters' of a presidential campaign. But federal campaign finance law is no joke and the candidate contribution limits kick in as soon as a person begins raising and spending money to determine whether they’re going to run for office. Bush, O’Malley, Santorum and Walker appear to be violating federal law."[12]

Affiliated Political Organizations

Bush's campaign infrastructure includes the following groups:

Right to Rise USA, Super PAC

For six months before making his official campaign announcement, Bush personally raised money for Right to Rise USA, a Super PAC which was created for the express purpose of supporting his presidential candidacy.[14] Many criticized Bush, arguing he had broken election laws which, in the wake of the Citizens United ruling, must not coordinate with groups able to receive unlimited donations for political expenditures. Lawyers for Bush argued that because he had merely stated his intention to "explore" seeking the Republication nomination, instead of declaring himself a candidate, his attendance at Right to Rise USA fundraisers were not violating election laws.[15]

Before Bush's official announcement in June, 2015, the Super PAC Right to Rise USA had raised $103 million, more than any other single group supporting the other 2016 Republican candidates.[16] Major individual donors include:

  • Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-American billionaire gave $3 million[16]
  • Francis Rooney, a former ambassador to the Vatican, gave over $2 million[16]
  • Helen Schwab, wife of the investor Charles R. Schwab, gave $1.5 million[16]
  • John Negroponte, former ambassador to Iraq [16]
  • Former President George W. Bush, gave $95,000 [16]
  • Former President George H, W. Bush, gavie $125,000 [16]
  • American Pacific International Capital, a San Francisco-based company which has Bush's cousin Neil Bush on the board, gave $1.3 million [16]
  • Daniel Synder, Washington Redskins owner, gave $100,000 [17]
  • T. Boone Pickens, Texas Oil investor, gave $100,000[17]
  • John Huntsman, former Utah governor, gave $100,000[17]
  • William Oberndorf, investor and board member of Foundation for Excellence in Education, gave $1 million[17]
  • John Cushman, former president of National Boy Scouts of America, gave $300,000[17]
  • Brian France, NASCAR executive, gave $50,000[17]

Right to Rise, Leadership PAC

On January 6, 2015, Bush and his allies created the Leadership PAC, Right to Rise.[18] A Leadership PAC allows a candidate to raise money, hire staff, travel around the country and donate to candidates and other groups that could help facilitate an official run for electoral office.[19]

In a video on his Facebook page, Bush said, "Today we're setting up The Right to Rise PAC, which is a PAC to support candidates who believe in conservative principles to allow all Americans to rise up."[19]

Right to Rise Policy Solutions, 501(c)(4) nonprofit

In February 2015, Bush and his allies established Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. The organization was registered by former Walmart CEO Bill Simon.[20][21] While PACs and Super PACs can receive unlimited amounts of donations, they must disclose the names of donors. However, 501(c)(4) organizations need not disclose the names of donors and can still accepted unlimited amounts of money. It is currently unknown how much Right to Rise Policy Solutions has raised for the Bush campaign.[22]

Ties to ALEC and the Movement to Privatize Education

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

Bush founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), a school privatization advocacy organization, and its affiliated group Chiefs for Change, which organizes an annual meeting that brings together public officials and the executives of education companies.[23] FEE is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has heavily promoted "model bills" for school vouchers and other measures to privatize public schools in the United States. ALEC and FEE collaborate on an annual "report card" that grades states' allegiance to their policy agenda rather than academic performance. The two organizations have received funding from many of the same for-profit school corporations and (predominantly right-wing) foundations, including K-12, Connections Academy, State Farm Insurance, Intel, Microsoft, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Many of the same staff and "experts" have worked for both organizations, and numerous ALEC politicians have presented at FEE conferences.[24]

FEE is also a member of the State Policy Network of state-level right-wing "think tanks" that are major drivers of the ALEC agenda in statehouses across the country.

While Bush has presented his efforts as directed at improving public schools, especially for minorities and poor communities,[23] FEE and Chiefs for Change have been criticized for influencing state education policy-making to benefit the business interests of their corporate, for-profit funders.[3]

In 2013 the public watchdog group In the Public Interest obtained thousands of emails between FEE staff and education officials in six states which "revealed that FEE and their "Chiefs for Change" affiliate wrote and edited laws, regulations, and executive orders, to increase profit opportunities for the foundation’s financial backers," including Pearson Education and the virtual charter schools company K12.[25] FEE "forged an unusual role mixing politics and policy — drafting legislation and paying travel expenses for state officials, lobbying lawmakers, and connecting public officials with industry executives seeking government contracts," as described by the Washington Post, and has also helped expand Bush's influence since he left office in 2007.

View the email records here. Read more about FEE here.

Bush and FEE Staff Had Financial Interests in Education Companies

Bush's top aide at FEE pushed school officials to use SendHub, a communications service start-up in which Bush had invested, email records obtained by In the Public Interest revealed.[26] According to The Nation, the aide, Patricia Levesque, also worked for a lobbying firm that represented education technology companies.[27] Furthermore, SendHub's founder, Garrett Johnson, had also previously worked for Bush and served as a board member for another education non-profit run by Bush, the Foundation for Florida's Future.[26]

Charter School Founded by Bush Fails, Closes in 2008

Bush helped found the Liberty City Charter School in Miami in 1996. After ongoing financial problems and low-to-middling test scores, the charter's contract was ended in 2008. Liberty City, which served a largely low-income, minority population, "was the first school of its kind in Florida and a pioneer in a booming industry and national movement," according to the New York Times. Former staff and community members described Bush as actively involved in pushing for Florida's approval of charter schools and in the initial fundraising and founding of the school, whose first years coincided with Bush's second (and first successful) campaign for governor. Bush referred to his work with Liberty City in campaign materials, and cameras were reportedly often present when he visited the school. Email records show that Bush continued corresponding periodically with school staff and was aware of ongoing problems with finances and with the school's landlord. But Bush visited less often after his election and after the school received a D rating on a standardized test that had been a key focus of his campaign.[28]

Long-Term Results of Bush-Style Reforms Questioned

Bush has touted Florida's test scores as evidence of the success of his reforms, which included expanding charter schools and voucher programs. Between 1998 and 2007, fourth-grade reading scores increased dramatically, according to Reuters. But scores have dropped since 2009, especially for low-income students, and data show "huge numbers of high school graduates still needing remedial help in math and reading." Critics note that under Bush, the state also limited class sizes and increase per-student spending by 22 percent between 2001 and 2007. Florida's own studies "have found no evidence that low-income students who receive vouchers to attend private schools do any better at reading or math than their peers."[29]

Promotion of Other ALEC Policies

As Governor, Jeb Bush signed into law the "Stand Your Ground" law, promoted by the National Rifle Association and later adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council as a "model bill" called the Castle Doctrine. The bill was signed into law with the NRA’s lobbyist, Marion Hammer, standing alongside the governor at the signing ceremony on April 26, 2005.[30][31]

The law faced criticism in the wake of the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Bush defended the law stating, "stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn't mean chase after somebody who's turned their back."[32] He also gave a speech to the NRA in 2015 defending the law, proclaiming that "in Florida, we protected people's rights to protect themselves."[32]

Climate Science Denial

Bush has long been considered a denier of climate change and climate science,[33] despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming and humans play a role.[34]

"I'm a skeptic. I'm not a scientist. I think the science has been politicized," Bush told Esquire in 2009. "I would be very wary of hollowing out our industrial base even further... It may be only partially man-made. It may not be warming by the way. The last six years we’ve actually had mean temperatures that are cooler. I think we need to be very cautious before we dramatically alter who we are as a nation because of it."[35]

Two years later he told Fox Business, "I think global warming may be real... It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view."[36]

In comments made to a party in New Hampshire in 2015, Bush said, "For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you... It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality."[37]

Ties to the Coal Industry

Featured Speaker at Closed-Door Weekend Retreat with Coal Execs (2015)

Bush was the highest profile speaker at the June 2015 Coal & Investment Leadership Forum, an invitation-only three-day retreat in Bristol, Virginia hosted by the CEOs of six coal companies, according to materials for the event obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and reported on by The Guardian.[33] Bush was invited to speak by six owners and executives of major coal companies, including Joe Craft III of Alliance Resource Partners, Kevin Crutchfield of Alpha Natural Resources, Nick DeIuliis of Consol Energy, Garry Drummond of Drummond Company, John Eaves of Arch Coal, and Jim McGlothlin of United Coal Company.[38]

The event was held at the Olde Farm, a private country club known for its annual golf tournament in which players take sides in the Civil War for the South or the Union and which is described by McGlothlin as "our most cherished tradition."[33] Attendees paid at least $7,500 to take part, not including lodging.[38]

According to The Guardian:

McGlothlin, founder of the United Coal Company and owner of the Olde Farm, said Bush would meet a variety of energy executives.
“Attendees are from across the board from the energy sector including not only coal industry executives but also some from oil and gas industry, manufacturers and supplies of the energy sector generally as well as leaders of the banking and financial industry that follow and impact the sector,” he said in an email.[38]

An invitation to the retreat noted that "significant time will also be available for golf, fly fishing, one-on-one meetings and small VIP discussion groups, which is the hallmark of this conference."[38] Other speakers included Chris Horner of the Competive Enterprise Institute and the American Tradition Institute and Bill Johnson, president of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray was also expected to attend.[33]

Bush had not yet explicitly declared his candidacy for president and did not disclose any fundraising that may have been done or what he spoke about with the coal interests and possible campaign donors at the retreat.

"It is a great opportunity to meet with stakeholders in the state," Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush, said. "He will be talking about a variety of topics."[38]

Other Controversies

Lawsuits against Companies on which Bush Served on the Board of Directors


Bush held a $15,000-a-month consulting contract and served as a board member for Innvoida, a Miami-based building materials manufacturer, from 2007-2010, reportedly earning $468,901 over the period. The company obtained a $10 million federal loan in 2010 to construct buildings in Haiti, but according to a federal indictment, Innovida's president, Claudio Osorio, stole millions from the loan as well as from investors. An SEC complaint argued he "had recruited Bush and other high-profile figures to lend 'an air of legitimacy' to InnoVida and help him raise money," as described by the L.A. Times. Osorio was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud. Bush reportedly gave assistance to investigators and agreed to make a $270,000 payment as part of the company's bankruptcy settlement.[39]


While Bush served as Governor of Florida from 1999 until 2007, the state gave over $100 million to Rayonier, a Florida-based development and timber company, in exchange for logging rights and property.[40] Upon his departure from the state house in 2008 until December 2014, Bush served on the board of Rayonier, Inc., receiving more than $1 million in compensation.[41] Bush helped the company secure numerous tax breaks, steered public infrustucture projects to areas that would be beneficial to Rayonier developments and used his political connections to advocate against "anti-development groups" such as preservationists and environmentalists.[40]

Shortly before Bush's December 2014 departure from the board, Rayonier was sued in a number of lawsuits. One lawsuit filed by Altamaha Riverkeeper Inc., a Georgia environmental nonprofit, alleges that a Rayonier plan in Georgia violated the Clean Water Act for discharging effluent into a river that is home to many endangered species. The Rayonier plant had responded to complaints about the plant in 2008 and pledged new anti-pollution measures, but the complaint states that the plant is an "ongoing environmental calamity" and accused Rayonier of discharging over 50 million gallons daily of "highly discolored, inescapably foul-smelling effluent."[42] On April 1, 2015, the cased was dismissed on summary judgement by the U.S. District Court for the Southern Division of Georgia.[43]

Rayonier was also sued in four separate lawsuits brought by the company's investors. All of the lawsuits allege that the company inflated their inventory and income on their 2014 financial statements. The lawsuits came after the company itself admitted to the SEC that it had made mistakes on the statements.[44]

While Bush is not named as a defendant in any Rayonier-related lawsuits, his service as a board member means he may be called to testify.[42]

Company in Bush-Brokered Nigeria Deal Defrauded U.S. Government

Bush visited Nigeria in 1989 to promote a deal between the Nigerian government and MWI Corp., a manufacturer of industrial water pumps. As Mother Jones has reported, later allegations that "the transaction had been greased through massive bribes to Nigerian officials paid for by American taxpayer money loaned through the US Export-Import Bank" led to a federal criminal investigation and civil litigation. The final result was a 2013 finding by a federal jury that MWI "had defrauded the federal government of millions of dollars," though the judge ruled that MWI did not have to pay damages.[45] (Though prosecutors tried to call him as a witness, Bush himself never faced criminal charges and has maintained that he did not know of the bribery and did not personally profit from the deal.)[46]

Bush Personally Met with Nigerian Dictator to Promote MWI

Since the mid-1980s, MWI had been selling its products to Nigeria with the help of the Ex-Im Bank, which provided financing to the Nigerian government to buy U.S. goods. At that time, Mother Jones describes, "Nigeria's military leaders were borrowing extensively from the West to finance dubious projects, many of which never materialized. The money often disappeared thanks to Nigeria's institutionalized corruption."[45] A military coup in 1985 brought Ibrahim Babangida to power, but declining oil prices meant Nigeria could pay little on existing debt and most other countries stopped providing loans; however, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank continued financing deals, including $87 million in deals for MWI to sell the Nigerian government equipment that reportedly went largely unused due to a lack of necessary infrastructure.[45] The Justice Department later noted that "The fact that MWI was able to obtain Ex-Im Bank financing at all is surprising given the Nigerian Federal Government's traditionally poor credit history."[45]

MWI CEO David Eller, a prominent Republican supporter in Florida, had become acquainted with Bush through political circles. In 1989 the two formed a partnership, a separate company called Bush-El, that marketed MWI's products, earning a 3 percent commission on sales.[47] Eller touted his connection to Bush in his sales efforts in Nigeria, while Bush promoted MWI in a meeting with Babangida on his 1989 trip, according to promotional videos and State Department records obtained by Mother Jones. Bush made a return trip in 1991, then in 1992 $74.3 million in loans were authorized by the Ex-Im Bank for a deal costing $82 million.[45]

Questionable aspects of the deal came to light after a former MWI executive filed a whistleblower lawsuit with the federal government in 1998, which "alleged that MWI had defrauded the Ex-Im Bank by hiding millions in unusual payments to a longtime MWI rep in Nigeria named Alhaji Mohammed Indimi, and it accused Indimi of using Ex-Im loan money to bribe Nigerian officials."[45] Evidence used in the trail shows that in the 1990s MWI had "routinely" paid thousands per month for Indimi's household and credit card expenses and even shipped him luxury cars, apparently on top of a "commission" of $28 million for helping with the deal, some of which prosecutors argue was used for bribes.[45] Bush had praised Indimi and reportedly traveled in private jets with him on trips in Nigeria, but disclaims any knowledge of bribery.[46]

Opposition to Bush's Coastline Development Plans

A citizens' group called the Panhandle Citizens Coalition criticized a Bush-backed plan for massive development on timberland in the Florida Panhandle in the early 2000s. The St. Joe Company, at the time the largest private landowner in the state, was pushing for the project, according to the Florida Times-Union.[48]

Biographical Information

Born February 11, 1953, in Midland, Texas, Jeb Bush is a son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and brother of former President George Walker Bush.[1] While the Bushes are perhaps best known for their close ties to the oil industry, the family's fortune is also rooted in banking, finance, and wartime industries. Businesses and organizations with historical ties to the Bushes include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Merrill Lynch, W.A. Harriman & Co., Union Banking Corp., Bush-Overby Oil Development Company (later became Pennzoil), Dresser Industries (later merged with Halliburton), Arbusto Energy/Harken Energy, and the Carlyle Group.[49]

Prior to being elected governor, Bush worked in real estate, served as chair of the Dade County Republican Party, and served as head of the Florida Department of Commerce.[1]

Bush's first campaign for governor of Florida in 1994 was unsuccessful. He was elected governor in 1998 and served two terms.[1]

Bush is married to Columba Garnica Gallo, who is originally from Mexico; they have three children.[1]


Bush had resigned from all private-sector and non-profit organizations in order to explore a possible presidential run, a Bush aide told the Washington Post in December 2014.[50] His affiliations over his career have included:

As of December 2014, Bush was reportedly "reviewing other businesses in which he is principal partner or owner," including the consulting firm Jeb Bush & Associates and the business advisory company Britton Hill Partnership, according to the Washington Post.[50]


Twitter: @JebBush

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

Biographical & Professional

Articles & Commentary

Resources and Articles


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  27. Lee Fang, "How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools," The Nation, November 16, 2011.
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  55. Michael Crowley, "Jeb Bush's burden," Politico, January 5, 2015.