Politics

Jeb, the Leona Helmsley of 2016

Campaign spending infuriates donors, plays into stereotypes

Like Leona Helmsley or Imelda Marcos in the 1980s, Jeb Bush and his super PAC are good at spending other people’s money.

But to the chagrin of his well-heeled donors, the former Florida governor has precious little to show for it.

Bush and Right to Rise have spent far more than his major Republican primary competitors and their super PACs. Much of that spending has gone into ads attacking his rivals, according to Reuters, which cited the ad-tracking firm SMG Delta. But the Bush campaign has spent lavishly on luxury hotels and high-end travel.

The result has largely been a disappointment. Bush has made some headway in New Hampshire, according to recent polls, but he remains far behind front-runner Donald Trump. Nationally, he sits at below 5 percent in the latest polling average tabulated by RealClearPolitics.

“His biggest challenge has been breaking through,” public relations consultant Craig Stevens said Thursday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” with guest host Raymond Arroyo. “And I think one of the struggles we knew he was going to have is having been out of the game for 10 years.”

Helmsley, a hotelier who was convicted of tax fraud, took heat in the media for a lavish lifestyle that included a $1 million dance floor, a $45,000 silver clock shaped like the Helmsley Building in Manhattan, and a 28-room mansion in Connecticut. Marcos notoriously used ill-gotten gains from her husband’s tenure as dictator of the Philippines to amass a personal collection of more than 1,000 pairs of shoes.

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Bush did not commit theft or fraud to build his massive campaign war chest, but some donors apparently are feeling cheated. Reuters reported that 11 of 16 major donors contacted by the news agency questioned whether their investment has been well-spent.

The Bush campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment by LifeZette, but campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told Reuters that team Bush had “made investments that have allowed us to do what serious campaigns must do to be competitive in the primary and general elections.” And official from Right to Rise also defended the spending, telling Reuters that holding fundraisers in swanky hotels is worth the expense if it brings in millions.

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Since September, the Bush campaign reportedly tightened its belt in an effort to make dollars stretch further. But finance reports currently available show that Bush between June and September spent $1.2 million on private planes, according to Reuters. That is about $500,000 more than Democrat Hillary Clinton spent during the same period and almost two times more than Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio combined.

Washington Examiner senior political reporter Byron York said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that some insiders are worried not only that Bush is wasting money, but that he is diminishing the chances that another Establishment figure will emerge to challenge outsiders Trump and Cruz.

“You’re seeing some sort of Establishment voices say to Jeb, ‘Look, all you’re doing now is damage. You know, you can’t win, and all you’re just hurting Marco,’” he said.

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