Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer was on my show today, and in the second part of the interview I asked him about reports that he was digging into former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s financial history.:
HH: The Clinton Cash book makes clear that the Clintons never tell you anything, and so that’s why it’s a must-read for everyone interested in 2016. But Peter Schweizer, in the promotion of the book, it came to my attention you’re at work on a project about Jeb Bush. Tell us about that.
PS: Yeah, so you know, I’ve become very interested, as you said, we were on a panel together in Colorado, and what I was just talking about, cronyism and self-enrichment by politicians. So I always look at politicians that come into politics relatively middle class, or even wealthy, but their net worth increases dramatically while they’re in public service. And my question is, is there a connection between the two? With the Clintons, we followed the money. And I think it’s pretty clear their enrichment is the result of the public service that Hillary Clinton engaged in. We applied the same standard to Jeb Bush. We’re about four months into the research project, obviously not as global in scope as the Clintons, but you know, as governor of the state of Florida, you have a lot of things that you can do. So we’re following the money. We’re looking at land deals. We’re looking at an airport deal. We are looking at some of the educational reforms that were instituted, and some of the big corporate winners there and the flow of funds to foundation. And we expect, Hugh, to have something on that in early September. And I’d love to come back and talk about it.
HH: Now expand a little bit, because I’m shocked by that. I’ve always though every one of the Bushes was as clean as a Yankee snow, and I think Jeb is. And so I’m surprised. Are you saying this happened after he left the governorship, or while he was governor?
PS: Well, we’re looking at both areas. And look, we are in the middle of the investigation. I would tell you that if there was nothing there, we would have stopped the investigation. I think we’re finding some interesting, compelling things. But I don’t want to create the impression that we have decided that we know what we’ve found. This is very much an active inquiry. We, as I said, we’ve been at it for about four months. We’ve been looking at his tenure as governor, who some of the big winners were, and that we’re looking at in the years that follow when he leaves the governorship, some of the commercial and business alliance that he strikes after that fact.
HH: Now of course…
HH: He went to work for Barclay’s, right?
PS: He went to work for Barclay’s. He worked for Lehman before that. He’s involved with some hedge funds. He’s got some commercial activities with China that he’s involved in. And of course, he has a foundation that is involved in educational reform. And there certainly is money that has flowed there from certain entities. So you know, it’s a question of looking at, looking at the timing of the flow of money, looking at decisions that might have been made, and then seeing if there’s a personal enrichment component to that.
HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, though, Peter, you know this as well as anyone, because we’re talking about unspoken rules of journalism. Once you have a bestseller that I think dispositively addresses Hillary Clinton’s corruption issues, you then turn your attention to Jeb Bush, you tell people about it, you say September. Aren’t you working the system to bring attention to that? And are people convicting Jeb in their minds before…I’ve got no dog in this fight. I’m asking the hard questions of everyone.
PS: No, no….
HH: But don’t you kind of create the expectation, then, that you’ve got to deliver a verdict of guilty, guilty, guilty?
PS: No. Hey, Hugh, I think that’s a very fair point. And no, I would not jump to that conclusion at all. And let me go at pains to say that. This was something that grew out of a question from Bloomberg as the book came out and said are you looking at anyone else, and I said well, yeah, we’re looking at Jeb Bush. But no, nobody should prejudge and say oh, this means that all of this bad chicanery was going on. Don’t jump to that assumption at all. Let’s wait and see in September when it comes out. We are in the middle of the investigation. You know, what level is rises to, we’ll have to see. But I will say that you know, it’s not as if we looked into this and there was absolutely nothing.
HH: And so my last question is a baseline one.
HH: And I just, objectively, how much money can a former public official make before Peter Schweizer begins to wonder whether or not they are using their influence, because I am not against making money.
PS: I’m not, either.
HH: You know, I got out of the government in 1988, and I’ve been making money for 30 years since, 25 years since. I want people to make money. But I wonder what’s your baseline? How much is too much in your eyes?
PS: For me, it’s not the quantity. It’s the question of how they made it. And so for example, with the Clintons, what’s troubling is I have no problem with ex-presidents hitting the lecture circuit. I have a problem when their speaking fees jump dramatically when their wife becomes secretary of State. So for me, it’s a question of are you making the money because you’re engaging in a legitimate business enterprise? And there’s nothing wrong with that. Or you’re giving speeches, because people want to hear you? Or are you making money because people are giving you speaking fees that I think are more akin to influence payments?
HH: And last question, Peter…
HH: Is there a pressure on you to find a story on Jeb Bush, because if you don’t, people aren’t going to invite you on to say Jeb Bush is one of the cleanest guys ever. Isn’t that the way it works?
PS: That’s, no, that’s a very fair question, Hugh. I will tell you that’s not the way that we operate. So there’s no pressure that we feel internally. We have researchers that worked on the Clinton project that are working on this project. And it is all about follow, see what you can find, and then we make a judgment if there’s something there. So I think that’s a fair point, but we’re not feeling that pressure internally at all.
HH: Peter Schweizer, always a pleasure. The new book is Clinton Cash. Go out and get it.
End of interview.