While he contemplates running for president in 2016, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been quietly putting together a portfolio of business interests, some with Chinese partners, that could turn into a political liability for him if he runs, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, Bush is chairman and manager of a BH Global Aviation, a new offshore private equity fund, which raised more than $60 million in September, much of it from foreign investors.
In November, the fund, incorporated in the United Kingdom and Wales, a structure some assert functions "like a tax haven by allowing overseas investors to avoid U.S. taxes and regulations," according to Bloomberg. It is one of at least three such funds that Bush has launched in recent years.
He is also chairman of BH Logistics, a $26 million fund created earlier this year with backing from a Chinese conglomerate, and a $40 million fund involved in exploring for shale oil.
Many financial experts say that the flurry of multimillion-dollar financial deals raises questions as to whether Bush is actually planning a White House run.
Bush’s actions "signal . . . someone who isn’t seriously looking at the presidency, or he wouldn’t have gone down this path," one fundraiser for private equity said, adding that someone planning to run would ordinarily be getting out of such funds.
Until now, many observers thought Bush’s biggest challenge would be dealing with opposition from conservatives who regard him as a moderate, "country-club Republican."
But in the wake of former venture capitalist and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s bruising 2012 loss —
in which he was routinely depicted as an out-of touch multimillionaire —
Bush is beginning to resemble a "mini-Mitt," Bloomberg opined.
"Running as the second coming of Mitt Romney is not a credential that’s going to play well anywhere, with Republicans or Democrats," said GOP consultant John Brabender.
A Bush run for the White House could also cast unwanted attention on his Chinese investors —
something the Chinese want to avoid.
"The Chinese don’t like political attention in the United States, because anything involving China can be tainted," said Derek Scissors, an American Enterprise Institute scholar
who studies U.S.-Chinese economic relations.
Scissors said that critics would raise questions, such as "Aren’t they trying to steal U.S. technology? Are you [Bush] helping them?"
"There’s a big business opportunity here for Bush," Scissors added. But at the same time, he may be making a move "that’s going to cause him political problems down the road."
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