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Jeb Bush’s K Street connections

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Nashville, Tenn. on May 30. He is formally announcing his candidacy for the presidency on Monday. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

Jeb Bush on Monday officially kicked off his presidential campaign in Miami, taking aim at Washington while promising to get “the static capital of this dynamic country – out of the business of causing problems.”

To do so, however, he will partly rely on the help of lobbyists who engage in the type of Washington work that Bush criticized as he launched his bid for the White House.

“Leaders have to think big, and we’ve got a tax code filled with small-time thinking and self-interested politics,” Bush said in his Miami speech touting the need for tax reform. “What swarms of lobbyists have done, we can undo with a vastly simpler system – clearing out special favors for the few reducing rates for all.”

Several of Bush’s financial backers and supporters are Washington veterans and his deep ties to K Street will likely boost the former Florida governor’s ability to raise big money and allow him to tap into a well of veteran policy advisers for his campaign.

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His list of allies in the influence world include the heads of big lobby shops, Republican lawmakers-turned-lobbyists and longtime advisers to the Bush family.

Here’s a sampling, but not a complete list, of Bush’s K Street backers:

Kimberley Fritts, chief executive of lobby shop Podesta Group, worked for Jeb Bush during his first gubernatorial campaign in 1994, and is continuing her support this time around through fundraising and recruiting members of Congress to support the former Florida governor’s efforts in their states.

“Last week we rolled out a number of endorsements with the Florida delegation,” she said. “We think it’s been going well.” Fritts flew to Miami this morning to meet with members of Bush’s team, and will head back to D.C. later today.

Tom Loeffler, the retired Texas congressman who now works at lobby giant Akin Gump, has been fundraising for Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, for several months. Loeffler goes way back with the Bush family: he was the Texas political co-chairman for George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign and a national adviser for the 1992 campaign. He later served as George W. Bush’s Texas finance co-chairman for his 1994 gubernatorial campaign, Texas regional finance chairman for his 1998 campaign, national finance co-chairman for his 2000 presidential campaign and South Texas co-chairman for his 2004 campaign.

Bill Paxon, the retired New York congressman who now works at Akin Gump, is also fundraising on Bush’s behalf.

Vin Weber, the retired Minnesota congressman who now works at lobby and public affairs shop Mercury, exchanged emails with Bush at least six months ago to express his commitment to the candidate. Weber said he is primarily interested in advising on policy — he spoke last month at an event for Bush’s super PAC about economic mobility, one of the core parts of Bush’s domestic agenda.

“I want to be helpful on the policy side of the campaign,” Weber said. “I’m willing to raise money and give money but that’s not what I’m best at. I want to coordinate policy to the extent that I can.”

Denny Rehberg, the retired Montana congressman who now works at Mercury, is gathering support for Bush in Montana and Washington. He said he anticipates Bush will be drawing significant financial support from K Street. “When I think of K Street, I think of business, not necessarily lobbyists or government relations, but business,” he said. “I think that he has a strong background of support for and from business.”

Rob Collins, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who now works at GOP lobby shop S-3 Group, is working to recruit members of Congress to endorse Bush, and facilitating the exchange of ideas and information between the campaign and think tanks and other policy experts.

Lanny Griffth, chief executive of lobby shop BGR Group, has raised money for the candidate. Griffith served several roles in the George H.W. Bush administration, and was later a “Ranger” — the designation for those who raised at least $200,000 — for George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign.