By some accounts, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) hurried into the 2016 presidential race in part because he was concerned about questions surrounding his private-sector work. But at this point, those questions are apparently getting louder.
Two weeks ago, for example, the likely Republican candidate was eager to criticize President Obama’s breakthrough on U.S. policy towards Cuba, but Bush’s condemnations proved problematic when the public was reminded that Barclays reportedly paid Bush more than $1 million a year, even while the financial giant was being accused of violating Cuban sanctions.
Late last week, as Jason Millman reported, a similar problem popped up.
The for-profit hospital chain Tenet Healthcare announced on Christmas Eve that Jeb Bush would be stepping down from its board of directors by the end of the year. Bush, who has served on the board of Tenet since 2007, is starting to cut his business ties as he explores a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And there’s one obvious reason why keeping Tenet on his resume might not look so good politically: Tenet has benefited greatly from the Affordable Care Act, which much of the GOP base is still committed to repealing.Bush is giving up a lucrative board post. He earned $128,500 in cash plus $170,000 in stock last year for a total of $298,500 according to Tenet’s 2013 proxy statement.
Just so we’re clear, Jeb Bush isn’t accused of doing anything wrong during his tenure on the company’s board.
He’s resigning, however, because as Politico put it, “Bush’s involvement with Tenet could give ammunition to conservatives in the GOP who view him as too moderate – particularly those who despise the Affordable Care Act.”
It’s worth appreciating just how odd these circumstances are. A for-profit health care company made money through the for-profit American health care system. One of its board of directors earned quite a bit by way of the company’s success. So, good for him? Actually, no, that’s bad for him because Republican primary voters hate the American health care system and those who profit from it.
Kevin Drum added, “In normal times, Bush would have left Tenet because it’s a big, soulless corporation that’s paid fines for Medicare fraud and been criticized for dodgy tax practices at the same time it was beefing up executive pay. A man of the people who aspires to the Oval Office can’t afford to be associated with this kind of dirty money. But no. At least if Politico is to be believed, this isn’t really an issue in the GOP primary. What is an issue is that Tenet might have profited from Obamacare, which in turn means that Jeb may have profited from Obamacare.”
Of course, this will only get worse for Bush as the campaign begins in earnest. He’s resigning from Barclays, but he’ll have to answer questions about its work. He’s resigning from Tenet’s board, but that will require explanation, too. The foreign money invested in Bush’s private-equity business has already generated questions, as has his work as an adviser to Lehman Brothers.