Fundrais­ing is a fam­ily busi­ness for Jeb — and for the next Bush gen­er­a­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY ED O’KEEFE ed.okeefe@wash­ Matea Gold, Tom Ham­burger and Katie Zez­ima con­trib­uted to this re­port.

las ve­gas— Po­lit­i­cally, Jeb Bush wants vot­ers to fo­cus on his first name and his own po­lit­i­cal record. But when it comes to fundrais­ing, he’s still bank­ing on the suc­cess of his last name.

He hosted wealthy donors, many of whom backed his fa­ther and brother’s pres­i­den­tial bids, at his par­ents’ coastal es­tate in Maine this month. And on Fri­day night, he head­lined a rau­cous din­ner hosted by a PAC led in part by his two sons. It was held in a Vene­tian Ho­tel ball­room next to the theater where Diana Ross per­forms.

The group can­not of­fi­cially en­dorse in the pres­i­den­tial race, so Bush and his fam­ily are draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the PAC as he con­tin­ues fundrais­ing. But the PAC is an out­growth of the 2004 re­elec­tion cam­paign of Ge­orge W. Bush— so, in essence, Jeb Bush is learn­ing the lessons of his older brother.

With his fa­ther side­lined by in­jury and his brother stay­ing out of the fray, Bush is de­ploy­ing his wife and sons to ap­pear at some of the 17 ma­jor fundrais­ing events in 11 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia that are sched­uled through Septem­ber.

Bush raised $11.4 mil­lion for his cam­paign in the last quar­ter— he was a can­di­date for just 16 days of the pe­riod. The sum was part of an un­prece­dented $119 mil­lion raised on his be­half by an al­lied su­per PAC and another lead­er­ship PAC. Most of his cam­paign money came from donors cul­ti­vated by the Bush fam­ily for more than 40 years. Just $368,000 came from peo­ple giv­ing less than $200. Bush him­self gave more to his cam­paign — $388,720 — to cover ex­penses.

Asked about the pal­try sum of do­na­tions from small-dol­lar donors, Bush says that there will be plenty of time to cul­ti­vate grass­roots sup­port­ers.

“We had 16 days, and we wanted to send a state­ment of se­ri­ous­ness about the cam­paign. It was launched, and, in 16 days, we raised $11 mil­lion. I’m proud of that,” he told re­porters last week. “We’ll have am­ple time to broaden that out. That’s the in­ten­tion.”

For now, Bush is fo­cused on big­ger dol­lars, and his ap­pear­ance on Fri­day night was a tacit ac­knowl­edg­ment of the work his sons are do­ing to help.

He ap­peared at a con­fer­ence hosted by Mav­er­ick PAC, a group of wealthy Repub­li­cans un­der the age of 40 who sup­port GOP po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates of a sim­i­lar age. The PAC was launched in Texas by about a dozen of Ge­orge W. Bush’s “Mav­er­icks,” or young pro­fes­sion­als who helped raise at least $50,000 in 2004. In 2006, Ge­orge P. Bush— Jeb’s older son— joined the group and be­came chair­man in 2010. He ex­panded the PAC be­yond Texas to in­clude more than 20 chap­ters, with sev­eral in Florida and one in Lon­don.

As Texas land com­mis­sioner, Ge­orge P. Bush can no longer ac­tively par­tic­i­pate, but his friend, Jay Zei­d­man, kicked off the event Fri­day night. He stood in jeans and a but­ton-down shirt hand­ing out awards to win­ners of a “40 un­der 40” prize while at­ten­dees dined on chicken and pork bar­be­cue, cole slaw and potato salad.

Spot­ted in the crowd was Char­lie Spies, a Repub­li­can cam­paign fi­nance lawyer, who rep­re­sents Mav­er­ick PAC and Right to Rise USA, the su­per PAC al­lied with Jeb Bush that raised a record $103 mil­lion last quar­ter.

Two younger con­ser­va­tive au­thors, Guy Ben­son and Kris­ten Soltis An­der­son, sat on­stage sip­ping beer while tout­ing their books. Ben­son ad­mit­ted he’d spent most of the day drink­ing by the ho­tel pool. Both lamented that too many lib­er­als rely on co­me­di­ans Jon Stewart and John Oliver for their news and be­moaned the “sti­fling cul­ture of po­lit­i­cal correctness.”

Bush ap­plauded en­thu­si­as­ti­cally from the front of the room. He was later in­tro­duced to the crowd by Fritz Bro­gan, a Washington res­tau­ra­teur who worked in Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and has grown close to Jeb Bush Jr.

Jeb Bush thanked his younger son for his early help and called out his wife, Columba, who was in the crowd.

“We’ve been mar­ried longer than the age of re­tire­ment of a Mav PAC mem­ber,” he said.

Fa­ther and son later headed up­stairs to Bou­chon, the French res­tau­rant by chef Thomas Keller, where they hosted a kick­off re­cep­tion for “Mis­sion: NEXT”— es­sen­tially the 2016 ver­sion of Ge­orge W. Bush’s “Mav­er­icks” group.

In a nod to his home state of Florida, Jeb Bush’s donor pro­gram is called “Mis­sion 2016 JEB” — a NASA-inspired ti­tle for a pro­gram that will have three dis­tinct tiers for top bundlers.

The first tier, called Apollo, will be for bundlers who can help Bush raise at least $75,000. The sec­ond tier, called En­deav­our, is for donors who reach at least $150,000. Top-flight bundlers will reach the Voy­ager level as they help rake in at least $250,000.

Mis­sion: NEXT will be for donors un­der 40 who can help raise at least $50,000. Ge­orge P. and Jeb Bush Jr. will co-chair the group and said in a joint state­ment that it “will be the cen­tral pro­gram for youth in­volve­ment in the cam­paign.”

Through a spokesman, Ge­orge P. Bush de­clined an in­ter­view re­quest.

Jeb Bush Jr. said in a re­cent in­ter­view that when he meets with po­ten­tial sup­port­ers, “I try to share my ex­pe­ri­ence with Dad, work­ing with him the last six years, what he’s like as a dad or a grand­fa­ther, his ex­pe­ri­ence in Florida as gover­nor. And talk about po­ten­tial so­lu­tions for things like stu­dent debt, the job mar­ket, health care, things that are fac­ing mil­len­ni­als.”

The two broth­ers have tapped their own pro­fes­sional net­works — woo­ing ju­nior ex­ec­u­tives such as Zei­d­man, busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives such as Bro­gan and at­tor­neys, sur­geons, in­vest­ment bankers, ac­coun­tants and other young pro­fes­sion­als in Texas, Florida and else­where.

An­dres Asion, a Mi­ami real es­tate bro­ker who is back­ing Jeb Bush and is friends with Jeb Bush Jr., said the broth­ers “have been raised in the busi­ness, per se, and they know their mar­ket and they know what they’re do­ing very well.”

Watch­ing Bush’s new plans un­fold are sev­eral for­mer mem­bers of Mav­er­ick PAC who have aged out and re­main ac­tive in GOP pol­i­tics and fundrais­ing.

Jonathan Neer­man, the for­mer chair­man of the Dal­las County Repub­li­can Party, called the group “a starter PAC” that “was an in­tro­duc­tion to the bundling world at a donor level that was not cost-pro­hib­i­tive. Its ge­n­e­sis was re­ally a net­work­ing op­por­tu­nity for young bundlers from around the state to stay con­nected.”

Another pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), is a found­ing mem­ber and stand­out alum­nus. His cam­paign chair­man, Chad Sweet, is a for­mer mem­ber.

“I’ve been tremen­dously im­pressed by the suc­cess of Mav PAC over the years, serv­ing as a ve­hi­cle for young pro­fes­sion­als to play a mean­ing­ful role in the po­lit­i­cal process,” Cruz said in an in­ter­view.

Clearly, Cruz learned from the ex­pe­ri­ence: De­spite trail­ing far back in most polls, he raised $14 mil­lion for his cam­paign last quar­ter and another $37 mil­lion through a con­stel­la­tion of su­per PACs back­ing his cam­paign. The com­bined $51 mil­lion put him just be­hind Bush in the GOP money race.

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