For many Americans the idea of entrusting their life-savings, or retirement savings, to a trustworthy entity is a very serious matter; and it certainly should be. A great number of Americans learned the hard way in 2008 that it is no guarantee that their life-long savings will exist if entrusted to uber-greedy, deceptive and deceitful financial institutions and investment firms. It is just one reason why the millions of Americans who depend on their Social Security retirement accounts were relieved when Republicans crashed the economy in 2008 but were prevented from endangering the Social Security Trust reserves; not for lack of trying.
Any time a politician is entrusted with other Americans’ money, there is always a danger they will use subterfuge and unethical practices to loot funds they are entrusted to protect and preserve. If the politician happens to be a Republican, there is always a danger, and plenty of examples, of them transferring public money directly to their rich campaign funders and in the worst cases to take the money for themselves.
For Florida taxpayers, their trust in then-Governor Jeb Bush to protect their lifelong pension savings was wasted when he forged a highly-profitable relationship with Lehman Brothers that made Lehman and Bush millions. That special relationship was ultimately a certifiable disaster for Florida public employees. While governor of Florida, Jeb Bush made some deceitful transfers of funds in 2005 and 2006 that put the Wall Street investment bank in charge of $250 million worth of pension funds for Florida cops, teachers and firefighters. Lehman profited by more than $5 million in fees on the initial deal with Jeb Bush, and they garnered several additional contracts to manipulate, and then lose, another $1.2 billion of Florida teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public servant’s pensions.
Of course those horrific losses came after profits for Lehman and Florida Governor Jeb Bush. When Lehman collapsed into bankruptcy in the fall of 2008, it left Florida’s public employee pension funds with over $1 billion in losses, but good old Jeb kept the $1.3 million in annual salary Lehman paid him as a consultant, or for giving them access to billions of Florida public workers’ pension savings. Being Florida’s governor and having access to billions of state employees’ retirement savings, coupled with an “enduring personal relationship” with Lehman Brothers was a very lucrative endeavor for Bush. It is a similar relationship and lucrative scam to that of several other Republican governors who repay their big-money donors with public employee’s pension savings that Republicans persist in claiming belongs to the rich. It is prescient to note that Jeb was shifting state pension money to privatization for “management” and predictable losses at about the same time his brother George was crusading to do exactly the same thing with all Americans’ Social Security retirement savings.
It was no coincidence that within a couple of weeks after Jeb Bush left the governor’s mansion and took the Lehman job with a handsome salary courtesy of stolen Florida employees’ pensions, the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) handed over to Lehman additional pension money, $842 million, to buy worthless Lehman mortgage-backed securities the company lost. In fact, to add insult to the billions of dollars in lost pension savings, the Florida SBA shifted an additional $420 million of pension savings into the exact same fund that good old Jeb initially sent stolen pension money to squander. It is noteworthy that the Florida SBA, that three-member body that gave away billions of state employees’ retirement savings recently counted Jeb Bush as one of the three.
What makes this theft even more egregious is that Bush’s colleagues in the Florida state capital moved billions of Florida employees’ pension money to Bush’s buddies at Lehman even as dire warnings about its financial troubles began to grow very loud. However, while teachers, firefighters, law enforcement and state workers lost billions of their lifelong pension savings, Jeb Bush got his millions, and Lehman got its millions for “managing” the pilfered money. And, it is notable that it was not an isolated Florida Bush incident using employee pensions for profit. Just a few years earlier another Bush pension scam profited all the Bushes as well as a number of obscenely wealthy investment and financial firms, and it was all with Florida employees’ pension savings to keep George W. Bush in the White House.
In April it was revealed that while he was governor, Jeb also funneled billions of Florida pension money to his brother George’s largest campaign donors as remuneration for their huge political contributions to put and keep a Wall Street friendly Bush in the White House. The Florida SBA, of which Jeb was one of three members, committed close to $2 billion of Florida employees’ pension money to financial firms whose executives were considered “Pioneer” fundraisers for George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. The requirement to reach the highly-profitable “Pioneer status” was amassing a minimum of $100,000 worth of bundled contributions to any one of George W. Bush’s campaigns.
According to a comprehensive International Business Times analysis of Florida government documents, and a list of George W. Bush’s bundlers compiled by Public Citizen, there were no less than 11 firms that received the Jeb Bush pension investments because they were qualified as “Pioneers.” Further analysis of data from the Florida Division of Elections and Political Moneyline determined how much money executives from those firms donated directly to Jeb Bush’s campaigns, George W. Bush’s campaigns, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida between 1998 and 2006 while Jeb Bush was in charge.
For example, Lehman Brothers, already recipients of Florida pension largesse courtesy of Jeb Bush donated $499,000 to Bush campaigns and received $175 million in pension money from Bush. Also included in the eleven investment firms was the largest private equity firm in the world, the Carlyle Group, where Bush daddy George H. W. Bush served as senior adviser from 1998 to 2003 during the time all these “Pioneer” transactions were occurring. The Carlyle Group received $275 million of Florida public employees’ pension savings for donating $69,000 to keep George W. Bush in the White House. As one pundit noted, the special relationship between Jeb and giant financial institutions really means that the “quid pro quo was a double windfall for the Bush clan,” and contributed to monumental pension losses for Florida public employees.
One can hardly blame the giant investment firms because they all enjoyed unbelievably profitable returns on their political donation investment. It is noteworthy that what Bush was doing as a matter of course in Florida for eight years is precisely the same scam Chris Christie has been profiting from while running rampant over public employees in New Jersey. It is nothing less than looting state pension funds to reward political donors and a blatant example of shafting middle class workers who paid into these funds for their retirement. Instead of reaping the pensions they built up over their working lives, Jeb Bush lost their money while benefitting the filthy rich who bankroll the same Republicans who pledge to repay them with more stolen pension funds. To be fair to Republicans everywhere, this scam is a well-executed machination of the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council and State Policy Network to rob state pension funds in every state in the union; neither Florida or New Jersey are isolated incidents.
The Bush clan are all corrupt and exist for the benefit of their wealthy donors at the expense of all Americans. It is just how they operate and the only way they know to govern; and yes, for all Republicans giving away everything the population owns to the richest one percent is what they mean by governing. It should not be a revelation that Jeb Bush, a typical Republican, had no compunction giving away at least a couple of billions-of-dollars of middle class Americans’ pension savings to his favorite campaign donors to lose at their pleasure, or that he made millions in the process; it is what Republicans do. But it should be a warning to voters, including Republican voters, that neither Jeb Bush, nor any Republican, can ever be entrusted with the keys to the nation’s, or the people’s, treasures no matter how small, because they will give it all away to the rich. It is just how they operate and what they consider good governance.