Mitt Romneyâ€™s career as a private equity manager and expert â€œturnaround artistâ€ was supposed to be a big asset in the 2012 election. Instead, it opened him up to attacks during both the general election and the Republican primary, with rivals like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry portraying the former Bain Capital CEO as a â€œvulture capitalistâ€ who laid off workers and picked companiesâ€™ bones clean.
So, if Jeb Bush is really considering a White House run in 2016, why is he in the private equity business now?
As other 2016 hopefulsÂ go on book tours, shove themselves into theÂ news cycle, and show up inÂ early states,Â SECÂ filingsÂ reveal that Bush has quietly been working since at least 2013 as the chairman of Britton Holdings, LLC, a private equity firm based in Florida. The SEC disclosure filed last month is required once a firm has more than $100 million under management.Â For comparisonâ€™s sake, Romneyâ€™s Bain had more than $70 billion under management.
A recentÂ Bloomberg reportÂ on both the SEC filings and Bushâ€™s work with Britton Holdings is full of details youâ€™d rather not have to explain as a Republican presidential candidate, particularly in a cycle when economic populism has gripped the GOP base. ConservativeÂ confabsÂ now feature Ted Cruz slamming â€œthe rich and powerful,â€ while Rand Paul warns of the folly of being the party of â€œfat cats, rich people, and Wall Street.â€
While Cruz and Paul hammer Wall Street and rich guys, Bushâ€™s partners in Britton Holdings include a former banker from the now-defunct Lehman Brothers, the high-flying Wall Street bank that collapsed just before the bailouts of 2008, as well as two former advisers to Credit Suisse.Â Among its investments,Â Britton Holdings is focusing some on shale oil and gas exploration, including the controversial practice of fracking.Â A major backer for one Britton Holdings investment is a Chinese conglomerate active in the energy sector.
Those donâ€™t seem like the choices of a man preparing to face the microscopic scrutiny of a presidential campaign, but Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committeeman for the Iowa GOP, doesnâ€™t consider Bushâ€™s private equity play a deal breaker for Iowa conservatives in 2016.
â€œI think itâ€™s a non-issue.Â The only people making a big deal about it are Democrats and the media.Â When a Democrat with money runs, you never hear a word about it,â€ Scheffler told The Daily Beast.Â The bigger problem for Bush in Iowa, he said, will be Bushâ€™s shifting position on immigration, whichÂ may or may not includeÂ a path to citizenship, and the fact that Bush hasnâ€™t been making the rounds though the state the way Paul, Cruz, and other possible candidates have. â€œBut as long as he gets in front of the other issue, the private equity, I donâ€™t think it would be a problem.â€
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