Jeb Bush Lobbied Pension Officials For Donor
Who, me?Credit: Gage Skidmore
April 1, 2015

So it looks like our Jeb has a lot in common with Chris Christie: namely, siphoning off state pensions and putting the money in the pockets of contributors. Freedom! Via the International Business Times:

Jeb Bush received the request from one of his campaign contributors, a man who made his living managing money: Could the then-governor of Florida make an introduction to state pension overseers? The donor was angling to gain some of the state’s investment for his private fund.

It was 2003, still a few years before regulators would begin prosecuting public officials for directing pension investment deals to political allies. Bush obliged, putting the donor, Jon Kislak, in touch with the Florida pension agency’s executive director. Then he followed up personally, according to emails reviewed by the International Business Times, ensuring that Kislak’s proposal was considered by state decision makers.

Here was a moment that at once underscored Jeb Bush’s personal attention to political allies and his embrace of the financial industry, which has delivered large donations to his campaigns. Email records show it was one of a series of such conversations Bush facilitated between pension staff and private companies at a time when his administration was shifting billions of dollars of state pension money -- the retirement savings for teachers, firefighters and cops -- into the control of financial firms.

Florida officials say Kislak’s firm was not among the beneficiaries of that shift. But verifying that assertion is virtually impossible for an ordinary citizen by dint of another hallmark of Bush’s governorship: At the same time that he entrusted Wall Street with Florida retirement money, he also championed legislation that placed the state’s pension portfolio behind a wall of secrecy.

The legislation, which Bush signed into law in 2006, shields key details of the state’s pension investments from Florida's open records statutes. The exemption benefited the financial sector -- the area of the economy that would ultimately employ Jeb Bush upon his leaving office. The law prevented pensioners, legislators and taxpayer groups from scrutinizing pension holdings or authenticating state officials’ statements about investments. It also impedes campaign finance watchdogs and political reporters from discovering whether Bush’s prospective 2016 presidential donors in the finance industry were the recipients of Florida pension deals.

Advisers for Bush did not respond to questions from IBTimes.

Two former Florida governors told IBTimes that Bush’s direct role in facilitating conversations between state pension overseers and firms seeking to manage pension funds breaches the norms of ethical government.

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