As Jeb Bush's all-but-certain run to the White House ignites for liftoff, one of the biggest lingering questions is whether he'll hit any serious turbulence over his decades of sometimes questionable financial dealings since leaving Tallahassee.
Well, it didn't take long for Bush's first financially tied mini-scandal. Last week, Jeb hosted his first big fundraiser since making his presidential bid semi-official. His host for the big money event? A corporate exec whose firm was once investigated for bid rigging in Florida while Jeb was governor.
The corporate tycoon in question is Charles Davis, who is best known these days as a former chief of investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. Back when Jeb was running Florida, though, Davis was vice chairman of Marsh & McLennan, a huge insurance brokerage.
And for four years starting in 2004, that company was tangled in a mass, multi-state probe centered on whether they steered hurricane insurance policies toward companies that then paid them a kick-back to get the business. The end result, according to then-attorney general and later governor Charlie Crist, was a higher cost for businesses and their employees -- and a worse deal for insurance coverage for state taxpayers.
"It's costing the company who employs those people more money than that company can probably provide, less health care coverage to those employees," Crist said at the time.
The company was sued in Florida and eight other states over the claims. Davis left the company in 2006, but Marsh & McLennan later settled the case for $7 million.
Neither Bush nor Davis would talk about the old case with CNN, which first noticed the exec's less than savory past in the Sunshine State.
But if nothing else, it hints at a tightrope Bush will have to walk as he navigates his nascent bid for Washington. His tight ties to corporate America are one of his biggest strengths as a candidate, with Wall Street magnates like Davis lining up outside his door to shovel money his way.
But thanks to a stint in the private sector that neatly dovetails with the recession and a host of national financial scandals, this won't be the last Bush fundraiser to raise some eyebrows with his past ties.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.