By Francisco Alvarado
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, released a mother lode of tax returns that show he’s got a net worth of roughly $22 million. In the past week, multiple media outlets have been poring over the financial documents. Here’s what an in-depth analysis by The Washington Post found:
- Jeb Bush & Associates, the consulting firm Bush established after he was termed out, paid more than $2 million in wages over seven years, mostly to his youngest son, Jeb Bush Jr., 31, who worked as a management consultant. Bush’s wife, Columba, was also on the company payroll, receiving an annual salary that averaged about $31,500 and totaled $220,000 over seven years. It is unclear what her exact role was for the company.
- Banking giants Lehman Bros. and Barclays (which acquired Lehman’s assets following the Wall Street firm’s implosion in 2008) paid more than a third of the Bush & Associates $33 million in proceeds from 2007 to 2013. Both firms paid a combined $12 million for his work as a senior adviser and an additional $8.1 million during that period came from speaking fees.
- From 2007 to 2013, Jeb Bush & Associates placed nearly $2.4 million into a pension plan and a 401(k) plan, money that it was then able to deduct from its taxes.
Meanwhile, Florida’s current governor, Rick Scott, may have designs on challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018, according to
This week, Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political fundraising committee reported paying $26,000 to a pair of political consulting firms, one in Miami that specializes in Hispanic outreach and the other based in Tallahassee. With that, Let’s Get to Work has now spent $292,616 on eight different political consulting firms just since April 1 on a wide range of services, including work on surveys, research, advertising and general consulting.
Scott has told some big political donors that he is interested in running for the Senate in 2018. But publicly, Scott has brushed off the questions by the media about his political future.
Asked in April about running for the Senate, Scott did not directly answer.
“I’m going to keep working on being governor,” he said then. “I just got re-elected. We’re going to have a good four years. It’s exciting.”
The amount of money Scott is spending on political consultants this early and with no declared future office ambition is unprecedented, said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of political science at USF St. Petersburg and a registered Republican who has written about Florida politics for 30 years.
“He must be looking down the road at what his next job will be,” Paulson said.
He’s not required to immediately resign his $125,000-a-year state job to run for another office, but observers say he faces a number of potential problems if he doesn’t cut ties with Scott.
Lopez-Cantera’s opponents already are accusing him of campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime, a charge he denied when he met recently with a Broward County commissioner and insisted they didn’t talk about the Senate race.
He could take a stand as a Republican that conflicts with Scott’s scripted message, putting him in hot water with his boss. Scott has told friends he’s eyeing Florida’s other U.S. Senate seat in 2018.
Lopez-Cantera also would be forced to defend Scott’s decisions whether he agreed with them or not, including a recent rash of budget vetoes that disproportionately hit his home county of Miami-Dade.
“You have all of the baggage, but it’s very hard to take credit for the accomplishments,” said former Republican Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas of Miami. “It’s always a hard place to campaign from.”