Jeb Bush’s role with corporate boards has raised a number of issues and seeming political contradictions, including Tenet Healthcare’s support for Obamacare. Now Bush’s position with Michael Bloomberg’s charity is under scrutiny from opposition researchers.
While Jeb Bush was on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity funded some decidedly left-leaning initiatives, including partnering with Planned Parenthood and helping the Sierra Club with global warming projects, records show.
But as with Tenet, Bush says he didn’t agree with everything.
“Governor Bush was honored to serve on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which does a lot of good work across the world,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. “Governor Bush and Mayor Bloomberg have great mutual respect for one another. While they disagree on several policy issues, both share a passion for improving education in America. As a board member, Governor Bush did not vote on or approve individual projects or programs.”
A Bloomberg spokeswoman, Meghan Womack, confirmed that board members do not vote on individual initiatives. Bush joined Bloomberg Philanthropies board in 2010 and stepped down at the end of 2014. Bush have a long relationship dating to when Bush was governor and it seems clear he was brought on the board for his education policy expertise.
Still, several initiatives seem out of step with a likely GOP presidential contender:
-- In March 2014, the charity launched a $50 million reproductive health program aimed at some of the world’s poorest countries.
“The advocacy grants will support local partners’ efforts to advocate for laws and policies that support access to reproductive health services,” according to a news release. “Planned Parenthood Global will provide on-the-ground support to local organizations with technical expertise on coalition-building and media campaign development.”
Together, the initiatives may not add up to much. But they do join a larger group of questions provoked by Bush’s involvement on the boards he joined after leaving the governor’s office.
“What did Jeb Bush do to fight Obamacare?” reads the headline on a March 23 column from Byron York of the Washington Examiner. The piece noted Bush’s role on Tenet Healthcare’s board, in which he was paid more than $2 million from 2007 and 2014, when he stepped down. “Tenet strongly supported the passage of Obamacare and has profited enormously from it,” York wrote. Bush spokesman Tim Miller responded that Bush, “forcefully advocated against it in board meetings, to the point that it bubbled up in public. When asked about it, he was very clear that he was in opposition to it."
Last month, news reports detailed Bush’s role on the board of Florida timber company Rayonier Inc., which faced a number of lawsuits before he resigned. “One case alleges a company facility in Georgia violated the Clean Water Act and contaminated the Altamaha River, and five others suits filed by investors contend the company made false and misleading statements that caused them losses,” the Associated Press reported. “All are active in court.” Bush joined Rainier’s board in 2008; he earned about $198,000 in pay in 2013, according to the AP.
And Bush’s lucrative consulting deal with InnoVida, a Miami housing start-up, has also generated negative headlines. The company collapsed as a fraud and the CEO was sent to prison. Bush, who served on the company board, had to pay back more than half of the $470,000 he earned between 2007 and 2010, according to the Miami Herald. He was never accused of wrongdoing but it continues to generate headlines as he moves toward a presidential run. “Jeb Bush’s Big InnoVida Headache,” reads a Jan. 22 headline in National Review.
Reseachers at liberal American Bridge also flagged a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant that provided scholarships for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants. There was also $6 million given to Environmental Defense Fund to “minimize the environmental impacts of natural gas operations through hydraulic fracturing.”
As we’ve reported, Bush had a business interest in the technology.
Said Campbell: “From protecting second amendment rights to achieving North American energy solutions to fostering a culture of life, Governor Bush’s strong conservative record is clear.”
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times