WASHINGTON (AP) — Surrounded by supporters as he announced his bid for the presidency, Jeb Bush decried the “swarms of lobbyists” holding sway in Washington and said he was the candidate ready to do something about it.
“We will also challenge the culture that has made lobbying the premier growth industry in our nation’s capital,” Bush said in Miami. “Look, the rest of the country struggles under big government, while comfortable, complacent interest groups in Washington have been thriving on it.”
Four days later, Bush was in Washington for a fundraising luncheon in his honor. His hosts included lobbyists who have made their living working the influence game in D.C., with the majority of big money fundraisers listed on the June 19 invitation current or one-time lobbyists.
For Bush, the connection is not new. Before he was governor, Bush himself was a registered lobbyist on behalf of Codina Bush Group and a country club development in 1991, Miami-Dade records show. A spokeswoman said Bush wasn’t working as a lobbyist then but as a partner in development projects.
As Florida governor, he expanded the state’s D.C. lobbying corps. After leaving office, he was a corporate board member or adviser for companies that spent tens of millions in federal lobbying. And now, as presidential candidate, one vein of support flows from the K Street lobbying corps, and another from lobbyists in his home state of Florida.
Fundraising reports that Bush filed last week with the Federal Election Commission list eight lobbyists as bundlers who brought in $228,400 to his campaign through June 30. That likely represents just a portion of his industry support, as the FEC report — listing $11.4 million in contributions — is a small piece of his larger fundraising machine. Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, has raised another $103 million but not yet disclosed its donors.
On Monday, Bush banged the anti-establishment drum once more in a Florida State University speech entitled, “Taking on Mt. Washington” — including a pitch to extend the ban on former members of Congress from lobbying their colleagues from one to two years up to six.
In deriding the industry on one hand while accepting support on the other, Bush is playing an age-old Washington game.
“The fact is that candidates in both parties get a lot of help from those same lobbyists and the interests they represent,” said Dale Eisman, a spokesman for the public interest group Common Cause. “These folks are not giving money to candidates like they might give money to the Heart Foundation or Cancer Society. They are making an investment in government. And typically when folks make investments, they expect a return.”
As Florida governor, Bush pushed reforms including a lobbyist gift ban and tighter disclosure rules, said spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.
“Governor Bush was able to implement lobbying and special interest reform measures in Florida and is willing to fight for them as president,” Campbell said. “There is no doubt that his continued focus will exert pressure on members of Congress to engage.”
When he released 33 years of tax returns, Bush again targeted D.C. influence-peddling. While noting that he made $7.4 million in 2013, largely from giving speeches and serving as a consultant to corporate America, Bush said he never lobbied the government he served.
“That was a line I drew and it was the right one,” Bush wrote. “And it’s a line more people should be drawing in Washington,
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