Politics

June 19, 2013

Jeb Bush to headline LePage re-election event

The former Florida governor has both personal and political ties to Maine's first family.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Former Florida Gov. John Ellis "Jeb" Bush will appear at a fundraiser in Kennebunkport for Republican Gov. Paul LePage's 2014 re-election campaign.

click image to enlarge

In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Miami. Bush will headline a re-election campaign event for Maine Gov. Paul LePage next month. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Bush, the son and brother of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively, will headline the event, scheduled July 2 at the Nonantum Resort in the coastal town where the Bush family has long had a summer home.

Bush is a prospective Republican candidate for president in 2016. He told a crowd at an event in Washington, D.C., on Monday that he hasn't decided whether he will run, according to CBS News.

Bush left office as Florida's governor in 2007 and has stayed in the public eye, largely focused on education reform.

The Bush family typically gathers at its compound on Walker's Point for the Fourth of July, and the families of LePage and Bush have intersected often, personally and politically.

An email announcing the fundraiser was forwarded to the Portland Press Herald Tuesday night. Brent Littlefield, LePage's political adviser, confirmed the event Wednesday morning but declined to say more about it.

A number of Republicans are listed as hosts of the fundraiser, including moderate former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and Linda Bean, a Maine businesswoman who has supported libertarian candidates and causes, including the 2012 presidential campaign of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and businessman Les Otten are also listed as hosts. Poliquin and Otten lost to LePage in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

The fundraiser offers a private session and photo opportunity with Bush and LePage. That will cost $2,000 per person or $3,000 per couple.

General admission, an hour after the private session begins, will cost $150 per person.

State law allows individuals to contribute as much as $1,500 to partisan gubernatorial candidates for the primary and another $1,500 for the general election, so an individual who buys admission to the $2,000 private session could still donate another $1,000 to LePage.

In early 2012, the LePage campaign held an event in Augusta, where contributions were listed at $500 to $3,000, as reported by The Associated Press.

The event in Kennebunkport will be LePage's highest-profile fundraiser to date, featuring a prominent national figure with family ties to Maine -- and to LePage and his family.

Some of the ties are political: Bush runs the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a conservative think tank that promotes alternatives to public education, including virtual schools. The LePage administration relied heavily on the foundation to write policies to allow taxpayer-funded virtual schools in Maine, as detailed in a series published in the Maine Sunday Telegram in September.

Some of the ties are personal: LePage's wife, Ann, and Jeb Bush's mother, Barbara, the former first lady, worked together to publish a journal for parents of newborns, according to a news release. The two unveiled the journal at Maine Medical Center in Portland this month.

Last September, Barbara Bush and Ann LePage met with students at Brewer Community School.

Maine ethics commission records show that LePage's campaign had raised more than $219,000 before the end of 2012. John McKernan, Snowe's husband and a former Republican governor of Maine, has already given the campaign $3,000, while Otten and Poliquin have given $1,500 each.

LePage's likely opponents in the 2014 race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, have also begun fundraising. They start at a disadvantage, because LePage has been raising money since 2011, when he took office.

Last week, Michaud announced his intent to explore a run for governor. Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said Michaud has been working to raise money for his run, but hasn't had any events or scheduled any.

She would not say how much Michaud has raised, but said there has been "a tremendous response from Mainers across the state" who have expressed interest in donating to or volunteering for the campaign.

Cutler held a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., in May that was hosted by 20 lobbyists and other national political figures, including major Democratic fundraisers Michael and Harolyn Cardozo and lobbyist Tony Podesta.

Ted O'Meara, a spokesman for Cutler, said the event generated about $100,000 for the campaign.

"There will be more events as the campaign unfolds, but that has been the only big event," O'Meara said.

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

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