Jeb Bush's New PAC: Another Sign of Candidacy?

Right to Rise PAC web page screenshot

Screen shot of Main Page for Right to Rise PAC

Jeb Bush's New PAC: Another Sign of Candidacy?
| published January 6, 2015 |

By R. Alan Clanton
Thursday Review editor

Jeb Bush may be taking yet another step—not so tentative this time—along his path toward making a run for the Presidency. Bush, the former governor of Florida, the brother of former President George W. Bush, and the son of former President George H.W. Bush, filed the legal papers required to establish a political action committee, also called a PAC. His newly formed PAC will enable him to raise money, as well as deploy the money for political activities.

According to his spokespersons and his schedule, Bush already has a half dozen public fundraising events scheduled in at least three states this month, and a private fundraising event in Connecticut is scheduled for this week. Under current campaign laws, any monies raised at these events will go directly toward his PAC.

The move was widely viewed as another solid sign that Bush, now 61, will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. On New Year’s Eve, Bush spokespersons revealed to the Washington Post that the once popular governor of the Sunshine State was stepping down from several corporate board posts and divesting himself of certain investments and financial assets. At that time, Bush shed his interests in several non-profit organizations as well.

Some with close connections to Bush and his team also say that he is preparing an exhaustive and thorough disclosure statement regarding his finances and business ventures since he left the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. Bush is a partner or investor in several energy-related businesses based in Coral Gables and Miami, as well as a private equity firm.

Much attention has been paid to Jeb Bush during the last one year. Though he has previously been noncommittal when the question of a presidential run is put bluntly to him, some of the family narrative has changed in recent weeks. The Republican Party scored massive victories at the polls in the midterm elections, and much of the GOP’s success—political analysts believe—came as a result of President Barack Obama’s sagging poll numbers. Many Democrats sought to distance themselves from Obama, and in many cases deferred any public appearances alongside the President. The GOP’s big wins in November have generated excitement among Republican presidential hopefuls that 2016 may be a year of maximum opportunity.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush has remained at the forefront of the conversations among national political watchers since 2012, when Republican Mitt Romney lost to President Obama. Among Bush’s major peers in the handicapping is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). At least a dozen other potential candidates are also considering their options, including Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Mike Pence of Indiana, Rick Perry of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Mike Huckabee, presidential candidate in the 2008 primaries and caucuses.

Scandals in New Jersey threatened to derail the very public political aspirations of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie one year ago—an imbroglio in which some accused Christie of complicity in the so-called George Washington Bridge scandal. At that time, some among the governor’s top staff were accused of deliberately closing lanes on the G.W. Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, N.J. to Manhattan. Christie steadfastly maintained that he had no knowledge of the lane closures, and a full-scale bipartisan investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing last fall. Since then, Christie’s poll numbers have again improved—both among Republicans, and in hypothetical match-ups against presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Christie was at one time widely considered the man to beat among the earliest of the potential candidates.

But it is Bush’s positive numbers which have been the subject of much recent media discussion, as some polls taken in November and December show Bush scoring best against that hypothetical Clinton candidacy. That has given many in the GOP a reason to look closely at Bush as a possible front-runner in the run-up to 2016.

Jeb Bush’s new PAC is called Right to Rise. A Bush political spokesman said that the PAC will focus on a celebration of success and risk-taking, as well as free enterprise, new energy sources and energy independence, and a stronger, more technologically-prepared U.S. military. The PAC will also highlight Bush’s other longtime areas of concern—education and immigration.

Immigration is a topic which is not only close to Bush’s heart, but also critical to Republicans. Some political analysts say that the GOP hurt itself most deeply in 2012 among minorities, especially Latinos. Bush’s book Immigration Wars—co-authored by constitutional attorney Clint Bolick and published in 2013—redefines immigration as a chiefly economic concern. Bush argued that U.S. immigration laws are inconsistent and antiquated, but that any top-down reform must also consider the American place in a competitive global environment. Bush’s views on immigration are considered more nuanced and moderate than the views of others within the GOP, but he—like fellow Florida Marco Rubio—is considered specially gifted when it comes to luring Latinos back toward the GOP in future elections.

By forming a PAC early, and launching quickly onto the road to raise cash and to campaign in support of GOP candidates and political causes, Jeb Bush may be sending a signal to other potential Republicans to stay out of the way. Bush will likely become the front runner upon his official announcement of his candidacy, which he has yet to do, but in the meantime his PAC and its fundraising potential (as well as the media attention it will invariably receive) may scare off potential rivals and make his path to the next Republican National Convention a little easier.

GOP chief Reince Priebus has made it clear that he does not want a repeat of 2012, a race in which too many candidates and too many very public debates injured Mitt Romney, and made it infinitely more difficult for Romney to recover after a bruising and costly primary and caucus season. Priebus would prefer a leaner field, and a more consistent and unifying message for the electorate.

In the meantime, other Republicans have expressed an interest in running—or, in some cases refused to rule it out. Rubio, Huckabee and have all made comments in recent weeks indicating that they are exploring their options.

Related Thursday Review articles:

How Close is Jeb Bush to Make it Official?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; January 3, 2015.

Legislators Clear Christie of Wrongdoing; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; December 5, 2014.