As he explores a White House bid, Jeb Bush will make his first foray into the world of presidential fundraising this week -- highlighting the former Florida governor's ability to quickly raise money and his deep ties to Wall Street and the East Coast establishment.
The inaugural fundraiser for Right to Rise, Bush's new leadership PAC, will take place Wednesday evening in Greenwich, Conn., a wealthy financial center that was home to Bush's late grandfather, former senator Prescott Bush Sr. One organizer is former SEC chairman Richard Breeden, who was appointed by Jeb Bush's father and now heads Breeden Capital Management. Another host of the event is David McCormick, who served as a Treasury official under Bush's brother and currently serves as co-president of Bridgewater Associates in nearby Westport.
Bush's business record and his close ties to Wall Street could pose political challenges for him as a candidate. After leaving office, he was paid more than $1 million a year by Barclays, the British banking giant, and also worked for Lehman Brothers as a consultant before it went bankrupt in 2008.
A video that Bush released Tuesday announcing the formation of his political-action committee was filmed in front of BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm, which purchased Barclays global investment group several years ago. The location of the filming was first reported by The New York Times.
Bush recently resigned from nearly all of his consulting and board positions, except those in which he is an active partner such as his private equity venture, Britton Hill Holdings.
One GOP activist said the events would provide populist fodder for several potential Republican rivals, including Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
“I think a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz or a Mike Huckabee would use this fundraising event as illustrative of the fact that Bush is a conventional mainstream East Coast Republican," said William Canfield III, a GOP election law expert who has advised past presidential primary campaigns, including the 2012 effort of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Canfield said Bush will have no trouble raising funds, but faces a challenge winning over GOP voters in primary states.
"All the conventional big-dollar Republicans are going to want to curry favor with him because he is the putative nominee, but that doesn’t mean his message will sell to the public," Canfield said, citing "Bush fatigue" among some Republicans after so many years of Bush family members seeking higher office.
Bush was in Connecticut last spring at the Prescott Bush Awards dinner in Stamford, where he called for sensitivity to immigrants.
“The simple fact is, there is no conflict between enforcing our laws, believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is part of who we are as a country,” Bush told nearly 800 Republicans at the time, according to a local news site, ct.new.com.