Edging closer to 2016 bid, Republican Jeb Bush forms new PAC

AP News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2015 4:20 PM
Edging closer to 2016 bid, Republican Jeb Bush forms new PAC

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday announced the formation of a political action committee designed to lay the groundwork for a 2016 presidential campaign.

In a video posted in English and Spanish on Facebook, the Republican said that the "Right to Rise PAC" will allow him to "support candidates who believe in conservative principles to allow all Americans to rise up." An aide confirmed that the organization also allows Bush to hire staff, conduct polling, and pay for travel as he courts key donors and Republican officials across the country.

Bush telegraphed the formation of a PAC last month when he announced plans to actively explore a presidential bid. The announcement thrust Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, into the top-tier of likely Republican presidential contenders, although the field is expected to be crowded.

Tuesday's move also represents an effort to play catchup of sorts for Bush, who has been out of office since 2007.

Several potential Republican presidential candidates formed similar PACs months or even years ago. The group includes Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who have used political action committees to help build goodwill among other Republicans and build the infrastructure needed for a national campaign.

Bush's new organization is already adding high-profile operatives to his team. Rob Engstrom, political director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, informed colleagues on Tuesday that he is moving to Florida to volunteer for the Right to Rise PAC.

At the same time, Bush allies on Tuesday formed a so-called super PAC with the same name that allows them to raise and spend unlimited sums of money as he moves toward a formal 2016 campaign. The group's treasurer, Charlie Spies, also served as treasurer for the super PAC dedicated to former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, which raised more than $142 million in the 2012 election.

Bush struck a populist tone in a message posted on his organization's new website, charging that "millions of our fellow citizens across the broad middle class feel as if the American Dream is now out of their reach ... that the playing field is no longer fair or level."

He continued: "Too many of the poor have lost hope that a path to a better life is within their grasp. While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they've been a lost decade for the rest of America."

The message comes as Bush continues a private fundraising tour across the country. He is scheduled to meet with donors in Connecticut's wealthy suburbs later this week.