When Jeb Bush comes to New York City Thursday, his main purpose won’t be to raise money for his possible 2016 presidential bid, but to begin two days of meetings with his employer, the big Wall Street firm Barclays Capital, FOX Business has learned.
Bush’s trip, confirmed by people close to the former Florida governor, is raising eyebrows among some Republican fund raisers that he remains too cozy with to the financial industry at a time when many voters view Wall Street as toxic.
A spokeswoman for Bush, the son of president George H. W. Bush and younger brother of president George W. Bush, declined to comment on the matter. A spokeswoman for Barclays, Erica Chase, wouldn’t comment on the meetings, but confirmed that his position as senior adviser at the bank calls on him to "interface with our clients around world, advising them about the impact of economic trends and politics on their businesses.”
The spokeswoman added that Bush’s “role at Barclays began in 2009, through a relationship with our senior relationship management group.”
Since joining Barclays, Bush has played a key role at the bank, helping traders and bankers interpret the impact of government policy and legislation on the markets and business, such as tax reform and the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He plans to meet with officials this week to discuss the same broad range of issues, according to people close to the firm.
Still, Bush’s continued involvement with Barclays, and Wall Street in particular, will likely draw attacks from opponents as he weighs a possible run for president. All major candidates accept contributions from Wall Street firms and banks; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has ties to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, whose firm SAC Capital pleaded guilty to criminal insider trading charges. Cohen wasn’t charged in the case, but faces a civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Meanwhile, former first lady and Obama Administration secretary of state Hillary Clinton recently received $400,000 in speaking fees from investment bank Goldman Sachs, which paid a massive fine and settled a civil case with the SEC over a financial-crisis related fraud.
But Bush is the only major candidate who has a direct tie to a big Wall Street investment bank as a paid advisor, a role that began in 2007 after his second term as Florida governor ended and he was hired by banking firm Lehman Brothers.
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic Party strategist, said Bush’s ties to Barclays may not hurt him with pro-business Republican Party primary voters, but it could be deadly during the general election.
“Democratic party operatives would try to use it from the moment they find out to try to make it impossible for him to be elected,” Sheinkopf said.
Bush’s Lehman connection could be particularly controversial. He was hired at a time his second cousin, George Walker, ran the firm’s asset management business and just before the firm’s implosion -- one of the key triggers of the 2008 financial crisis. After Lehman’s demise, Walker left to run asset manager Neuberger Berman, once a Lehman subsidiary. Bush then took a job at Barclays, which snapped up Lehman’s investment banking business after the firm filed for bankruptcy.
People close to Bush say he hasn’t made up his mind if he will run for president in 2016, and he plans to make an announcement later this year or early next.