Jeb Bush supported the federal Wall Street bailout
He also worked for Barclays, which eventually benefited from $8.5 billion in taxpayer money from the bailout
Those issues could provide fodder for some of his conservative opponents in a presidential primary
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s decision to step down from his advisory role at British bank Barclays at the end of the year became the latest indication he’s gearing up to jump into the presidential race — and underscored one of the main liabilities he could face if he does run.
The move, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes just days after he announced on Facebook plans to “actively explore” a presidential bid.
Testing the waters early, Bush’s supporters say, will give him the opportunity to gauge his support and tackle some of the more controversial aspects of his tenure in public office and the private sector.
While Bush is seen as a top GOP establishment pick for the party’s nomination, he’s expected to face a fierce fight from the conservative wing of his party if he jumps in the race, particularly on immigration, thanks to his previous support for a pathway to citizenship, and Common Core educational standards.
But his record on economic issues and his private-sector experience is certain to spark criticism as well, from both his left and right flanks.
Already he’s drawn scrutiny over his business career, with a recent Bloomberg report examining his work in private equity and investment banking and declaring, “Jeb Bush has a Mitt Romney problem.”
Bush aides and allies insist his business career won’t be a problem if he runs.
“He’s very comfortable with his conduct, with his businesses and how he has spent his time since he’s been governor,” Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush family friend and GOP strategist, told CNN earlier this week.
But Bush’s ties to Barclays point to another potentially prickly issue for him — his support for the 2008 Wall Street bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which initially authorized $700 billion in loans from the U.S. government to the banking sector.
From September through December of 2008, Barclays benefitted from $8.5 billion in taxpayer dollars that were used to bail out failing insurance giant AIG, according to a 2009 report in Politico. A spokeswoman for the governor said, however, he didn’t join the firm until March 20, 2009.
But years later, during a 2012 hearing on Capitol Hill, Bush endorsed the bailout.
“For a short-term solution to a problem that had global implication, I think that was probably the right thing to do,” he said.
Other potential presidential contenders are on record supporting TARP, including Rep. Paul Ryan, who voted for it, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed a letter urging Congress to pass “an economic recovery package,” though he later said the letter wasn’t an explicit endorsement of TARP itself.
And in 2012, Perry called TARP the “single biggest act of theft in American history.”
Sen. Rand Paul, another potential presidential primary opponent, wrote in his book that TARP “represented everything that was wrong with Washington,” because of how it was passed.
Perry’s scramble to clarify his position on the issue underscores how politically unpalatable it’s been with the GOP base. Conservative backlash over TARP and the health care reform law contributed to the 2010 Tea Party wave, and the Wall Street bailout remains a potent issue on both the far-right and far-left flanks of the major parties.
Bush’s comments, and his role with the bank as it emerged from the financial crisis — as well as his work for investment bank Lehman Brothers, which he left after it collapsed in 2008 — could be fertile ground for Republican opponents looking for avenues of attack against him.