Billionaire businessman Maurice “Hank” Greenberg backed away from an alleged $10 million contribution he was said to have made to a PAC affiliated with the presidential campaign of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
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In an exclusive interview with FOX Business, Greenberg, the former CEO of insurance giant American International Group, sought to clarify reports that he personally made a contribution to Bush’s PAC, Right to Rise USA.
He told FOX Business that the contribution was not a personal one, but one made by the company he controls, CV Starr. He then made a critique of the Bush campaign, which has so far failed to gain much traction in the crowded field for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination.
“I didn’t make the contribution, the company did,” Greenberg said in an interview with FOX Business. “I like Jeb Bush. I’m sorry he is not living up to expectations, but that’s the reality of it.”
He declined to comment further.
Greenberg’s statement to FOX Business has been viewed by some GOP fund raisers as leaving the door open to the possibility that the insurance magnate may make a more explicit endorsement of another candidate, such as Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Fund raisers for Rubio have also been lobbying Greenberg for a possible endorsement and financial support, people with direct knowledge of the matter say.
In fact, some political analysts say Bush will come under tremendous pressure by fund raisers to drop out of the race if he doesn’t do well in the upcoming New Hampshire Primary -- a move some believe will pave the way for a single GOP establishment candidate to better compete against front runners Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman, and Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas.
“The smart money, corporate or otherwise, is taking a second look at Governor Bush because polling numbers are just not moving,” said veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who often advises Democrats. “The fancy folks with lots of dough are going to be having second, third, and fourth thoughts if he doesn't do well enough in New Hampshire.”
A spokesman for Bush’s Right to Rise USA declined to comment. A spokesman for the Rubio campaign declined to comment.
Either way, the contribution made by a company controlled by Greenberg is considered significant. It might be the largest campaign contribution ever made by either Greenberg or any of the companies he has controlled over the years, according to people with direct knowledge of his fundraising. It underscores how big businessmen are trying to influence the 2016 race, particularly among so-called establishment Republicans like Bush, Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and to some extent Cruz, who has attracted significant sums of money from businessmen in his home state of Texas.
Trump has said that he will self-finance his campaign with his massive wealth, that he estimates at $10 billion.
Bush has put significant effort into wooing Greenberg, who generally supports Republican politicians. Greenberg, as first reported by FOX Business, had been critical of Bush’s campaign, telling him to “stop being a gentleman” when attacked by opponents such as Trump, who has continuously mocked the former Florida governor in debates and on the campaign trail.
Since then, Bush has ramped up his criticism of Trump and has unleashed some attack ads against the businessman.