When John Ellis “Jeb” Bush delivered a speech at the University of North Carolina in January 2014, he arrived at the local airport alone and was met by a driver holding a sign that read “John B.”
The former Florida governor participated in a conference call with university officials to discuss how to best craft his remarks, for which he earned $42,500, for the business school audience.
In the days leading up to the speech, his representatives asked several times what media outlets had signed up for credentials to attend. Each time, they were told that the university had issued no news release about the event and that only the Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, was scheduled to attend.
The emails from UNC present a striking contrast between planning for the Bush lecture and the meticulous organization that went into a similar 2013 lecture at UCLA by Hillary Clinton, who along with Bush is now running for president.
Clinton’s fee for that speech — $300,000 — was seven times what Bush received in North Carolina, though the money went to her family’s foundation. Her representatives planned her appearance down to the smallest details, including a request for a spread of hummus and crudite backstage.
The differences between the two reflect both Clinton’s careful image-management efforts and her status as a global celebrity: a former secretary of state, senator and first lady who travels with Secret Service protection.
The details of the Bush speech are included in internal university communications about the event requested by The Washington Post in July. The public-records request was fulfilled last week, just as Clinton faced new questions about her $21 million speaking career. Under pressure to release transcripts of speeches she delivered to Wall Street executives, she has said she would do so only if other candidates who have given paid speeches — including Bush — did the same.
Although UNC officials booked Bush nearly a year before his campus appearance, the emails show that discussions with him and his team about the event did not begin in earnest until a few weeks before it took place.
When asked by a university employee what Bush might like as a thank-you gift — cuff links, ties, favorite bottles of wine, UNC gear — a staffer for the former governor responded that Bush liked chardonnay, before quickly adding that he would “be thrilled with UNC gear — really, anything you decide on will be well received.” The records do not show what gift was given.
The university provided Bush with a first-class airline ticket and a $259 hotel room at the Carolina Inn, a high-end hotel on campus. But the emails show no signs of requests for other luxury treatment.
“Governor Bush has no dietary restrictions,” an official with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which represented Bush in the negotiations, wrote in one email. In all, the records show that Bush spent five hours on campus. In addition to giving the lecture, he met with a selection of business school students and attended two receptions and a dinner.
Contracts for Clinton’s speeches that have been released publicly show she restricted her hosts from recording the speeches but required them to transcribe her remarks. The contracts delineated that Clinton would own the transcripts afterward.
Bush’s contract at UNC made no mention of a transcript but allowed the university to record the event for its archives and for viewing by alumni, provided Bush’s representatives were given a copy first. His contract allowed print media coverage but prohibited the press from recording the event.
The university posted a video of the speech online; it shows that Bush advocated for immigration reform and higher educational standards, and talked about ways to ensure economic growth.
“We need to change the pessimism that exists,” he told the group. “I do think the next president needs to be a hopeful optimist and incredibly joyful, to the point where he’s even criticized for being naively optimistic.”
Kristy Campbell, a Bush spokeswoman, said that Bush does not have an archive of transcripts from his paid speeches but that he had no objections if organizers of his speeches released any recordings they made of the events.
The records show that Bush did make two requests of UNC: He asked that Raleigh lawyer John Bussian be invited to the speech and a VIP dinner. Bussian said in an interview that he has been friends with Bush since the two lived in the same Miami neighborhood 30 years ago. He has donated $2,700 to Bush’s campaign and $5,000 to the super PAC supporting his effort.
Bush also asked to meet with students who had received job offers from Barclays, a major bank where he served as a high-level consultant.
The emails show that Bush’s speech drew 400 people to the free lecture.
Clinton’s UCLA speech was on a different scale, with 1,800 in the audience and hundreds more in an overflow room. The university sold tickets to the event, raising more than $100,000. Her address was covered by dozens of media outlets and sparked a shoving match among students waiting in line for tickets.