Million-dollar donors lift Jeb Bush's presidential ambitions

AP News
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Posted: Jul 29, 2015 5:33 PM
Million-dollar donors lift Jeb Bush's presidential ambitions

WASHINGTON (AP) — A dozen million-dollar contributors account for at least 10 percent of Jeb Bush's record-setting presidential fundraising haul.

The big-money boosters propelled Right to Rise, a super PAC dedicated to helping Bush win the Republican nomination, to its $103 million total in the first six month of the year. Separately, Bush's official campaign, limited to contributions of $2,700 or less per donor, raised $11.4 million. The super PAC faces no fundraising restrictions but cannot directly coordinate with Bush even as it spends money on his behalf.

The leading Bush donor, who gave $3 million, is Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, a billionaire health care investor in Miami. He's one of about 12 people who gave $1 million or more each to the super PAC.

Fernandez and other donor identities were confirmed with a source familiar with Right to Rise's fundraising efforts; the person asked for anonymity because the donor names won't be disclosed until reports are filed Friday with federal regulators.

Until Bush declared his candidacy on June 15, he traveled the country meeting with Right to Rise donors and speaking at its fundraising events. As an official candidate, he's now focused on raising money that his campaign will directly control. He left the super PAC in the hands of Mike Murphy, one of his most trusted advisers, who is based in Los Angeles.

Super PAC officials have said 9,400 of their roughly 9,900 donors gave $25,000 or less. Throughout much of the year, Right to Rise limited donors to gifts of $1 million so that the super PAC wouldn't be overwhelmed by one huge donor; that self-imposed cap lifted the day Bush entered the race.

A core group of 12 men and two women makes up the super PAC's executive committee — and shows Bush's appeal to some of the Republican Party's most influential and longest-serving presidential fundraisers. Each has either personally given $1 million, or helped raise at least that amount, for Right to Right.

Many are longtime associates of the Bush family, which already includes two presidents. Some said they expect the super PAC to continue to solicit contributions from existing donors.

Longtime Bush family contributor Al Hoffman said he expected nothing more from the money than to see Bush elected.

"I did it with joy in my heart because I want to see Jeb Bush win," said Hoffman, a Palm Beach, Florida, developer who served as ambassador to Portugal during the second term of Bush's brother, President George W. Bush.

Nancy Kinder, president of the Kinder Foundation, a philanthropy in Houston, and her husband, billionaire energy executive Richard Kinder, helped raise money for the presidential campaigns of Bush's father and brother. Jeanne Phillips, senior vice president of Hunt Consolidated Inc., led President George W. Bush's inaugural committees.

Other core Jeb Bush fundraisers were instrumental in 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's campaign. Chicago investors Craig Duchossois and Muneer Satter raised and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Romney's bid.

Romney's campaign finance director, Mason Fink, is the leading fundraiser for Right to Rise.

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Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.