A possible Jeb Bush presidential bid in 2016 may be partly undermined by his rush, in the years after he left the Florida statehouse, to make a lot of money, quickly. See, he was only worth $1.3 million, and he wanted to actually be rich.
"People thought of him as wealthy," Florida State professor Lance deHaven Smith tells The New York Times' Michael Barbaro. But that "was a misperception." Instead, Bush left his position as governor of Florida with "a net worth of $1.3 million and an unapologetic determination to expand his wealth, telling friends that his finances had suffered during his time in government," according to Barbaro. That suffering is calculable; when he entered office, he was worth $2 million.
So Bush employed a three-part strategy. He joined corporate boards, he advised corporate clients, and he gave speeches to corporate groups. Barbaro reports that the latter was probably the most lucrative, earning him as much as $5 million. But the first two tactics will raise questions if he decides to run in 2016.
Bush sat on the board of one company called InnoVida, a Florida firm that manufactured building materials. Until, that is, the company's president was indicted and it went bankrupt. Bush sat on the board of a soap company that collapsed, prompting lawsuits. He advised Lehman Brothers, the financial firm whose collapse helped trigger the 2008 economic meltdown, by unsuccessfully reaching out to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim for a bailout. (That plan was called "Project Verde," which is a little on the nose.)
It's unlikely that, barring a Bob McDonnell-style revelation surrounding InnoVida or another company, that these failures will do a whole lot to create obstacles for Bush in 2016. What might is his tenure on the board of Tenet Healthcare, which earned him $2 million. Tenet stands to make millions from Obamacare, and broadly supports the policy — which Republican voters are much more likely to treat with skepticism.
But it's a weird world in which we live where a guy worth $1.3 million is desperate to bolster his savings account. Last year, Congress for the first time became a majority millionaire; we are unsurprised, however cynical it may be, for our elected officials to both be rich and to be able to leverage their tenures in politics for even greater wealth. That's the impetus that drove Bush, it seems, sitting on the boards of six different companies at once to reel in cash as fast as possible.
It worked. And, luckily for Bush, he's more likely to have a tough time in 2016 because he supports Common Core or advocates empathy on immigration than because InnoVida collapsed. Again, we expect politicians to be rich and seeking to be richer. We don't, however, expect them to walk outside of party orthodoxy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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