Five Mega Female Donors Are Backing Jeb Bush

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Credit: John Pemble, iprimages on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

(WONENSENEWS)– As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tries to get his campaign back on track after low-rated performances in the GOP presidential primary debates so far, these five women are likely to watch how that goes. They are Bush’s female mega-donors, those who have given him a million dollars or more, according to a recent analysis of Federal Election Commission data by The New York Times.

These women, and all of Bush’s mega-donors, are expected to become more important in the coming weeks because Bush’s lackluster standing in the polls is affecting his ability to raise funds from Republicans who have become impressed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other candidates.

The Nov. 4 Quinnipiac University poll found that only 4 percent of GOP and independent voters leaning towards Republicans would support Bush in primaries in their states. Moreover, only 25 percent of all registered voters said they had a positive opinion of Bush while 38 percent had an unfavorable view.

Like the seven female mega-donors who have contributed to other GOP candidates and the two women who have bankrolled Democrat Hillary Clinton’s early campaign, all of Bush’s five female mega-donors are white, received their money through marriage and are on the Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans.

Although Bush has emphasized that “he is his own man,” about half of the $120 million he raised during the first half of 2015 came from donors who also gave to his father and brother, found the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.

Four of Bush’s female mega-donors live in Texas, which has been the top contributor to Republican candidates in the past two federal elections. In 2012, Texans contributed $172 million to GOP candidates. Another $61 million came from mega-contributors in the Lone Star State, the center noted.

The Texas mega-donors were among the first to write checks for Bush’s campaign, which enabled him to establish a nationwide network of campaign offices and hire staff. Like his father, the families made their fortunes in the oil industry and live in the same exclusive enclaves of Houston where Bush grew up and Dallas, where his brother now resides. Like his brother, Jeb Bush supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Barack Obama blocked last week, and fracking–a controversial drilling technique opposed by environmentalists–and other top priorities of the oil industry.

Helen Schwab, $1.5 million

The former Helen O’Neill is the second wife of Charles Schwab, founder of the San Francisco-based Charles Schwab Corporation. The company started out as a traditional brokerage house in 1971, but soon became the nation’s largest discounted brokerage firm.

The network of friends and business associates of Helen and Charles Schwab will be especially important in tapping donors in the finance industry who lean right and favor policies to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, lower taxes on income, capital gains and inheritance and curb entitlements. Rubio has been actively courting managers of hedge funds, private equity and venture capitalists. Last week, Paul Singer, a billionaire New York investor who gave more money to GOP candidates and causes in 2014 than any other donor in the U.S., threw his support behind Rubio.

Helen Schwab, the mother of two, serves as president of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, which has focused on education. At age 40, Charles Schwab discovered he was dyslexic. In addition to providing grants to the Center for Reinvesting Public Education at the University of Washington in Seattle, which develops citywide systems for K-12 public schools, the foundation supports the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., that does research in charter schools. Charles Schwab is a graduate of Stanford.

Helen Schwab has served on the board of governors of the San Francisco Symphony for more than 15 years as well as vice chair of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and is a board associate at Golden Gate National Park Conservancy.

Charles Schwab is close with former President George W. Bush, who appointed him chair of the president’s advisory council on financial literacy in 2008. Since leaving office, Bush has appeared at Schwab company meetings, such as the advisor services conference in 2014.

Nancy Ann Hunt, $1 million

Nancy Ann married Ray Lee, son of H. L. Hunt, the Dallas oil tycoon, one week after her graduation from Southern Methodist University, or SMU, in Dallas in 1965. The mother of five children and the grandmother of eight, she has been honored by the Methodist Health System Foundation and the Genesis Women’s Shelter for her volunteer work. The couple gave $25 million to SMU for a scholarship fund.

Ray Lee became one of the most powerful executives in the country when his father died in 1974, leaving him and his three sisters the largest privately held oil company in the U.S. In addition to serving on the National Petroleum Council, an industry organization that advises the secretary of energy, he has served as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In 2001, George W. Bush appointed him to the foreign intelligence advisory board.

In 2007, Hunt Oil entered into a controversial oil deal with the Kurdistan regional governor in the disputed territories of Ninewa. The federal Iraq oil minister claimed the $8-billion deal was illegal because only the central government could sign such agreements. A U.S. congressional committee concluded that the George W. Bush administration knew that Hunt Oil was planning to sign the oil deal, which was counter to U.S. policy.

Shala Ansary, $1 million

Shala Ansary is the second wife of Hushang Ansary, who served as Iranian ambassador to the U.S. from 1967 to 1969 and is a close friend of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Bush family. She is occasionally photographed at events at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts where the couple has contributed $2.8 million towards the purchase of 13th century Persian antiquities.

Hushang Ansary served as minister of economic affairs and finance under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi but left Iran for health reasons before the 1979 Revolution. He became a U.S. citizen in 1985 and founded the Parman Group, a holding company for textile industries, international trade and real estate; and IRI International, a company that manufacturers oil field equipment.

He served on the national finance committee of the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign and gave Neil Bush $500,000 to start his educational software business.

Jan Rees-Jones, $1 million

The former Jan Bartula is the wife of Trevor D. Rees-Jones, CEO of Chief Oil and Gas Company in Dallas. The couple has become among the most sought-after contributors to Texas charities and GOP candidates across the country since 2010.

Unlike his father, a prominent oil-and-gas lawyer, Trevor Rees-Jones, a bankruptcy lawyer, wanted to concentrate on business deals and so he left bankruptcy law after five years. In 1994, he founded Chief and began drilling and investing in more than 400 high-risk exploration wells in Southwestern and Central Texas. In 1999, Chief began using fracking, a decision that increased production of natural gas at a time when prices were booming. Chief now produces 800 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.

Jan Rees-Jones, whose father was a regional manager for a pharmaceutical company, and her husband, the grandson of a Presbyterian minister, allocated $290 million of their $5.3-billion fortune to establish a family foundation in 2006. Its mission is “to serve God by serving others, sharing his word and resources with those in need,” notes the foundation’s website.

Trevor Rees-Jones, a former Eagle Scout, earmarked $25 million for the Boy Scouts. Other recipients include Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, the Center for Foster Care Excellence at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Habitat for Humanity and the Dallas Christian Women’s Job Corps.

Chief Oil is named after their Labrador retriever, so animal welfare is a top priority. In addition to $5 million to the ASPCA, the foundation has supported Youth Village, an educational program that teaches troubled teens to train dogs.

Since 2010, the couple has pumped millions into GOP political campaigns, especially those of candidates who support fracking in Appalachia and Texas, such as former Gov. Rick Perry, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

The couple has also contributed to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which wants to cap payments to plaintiff’s lawyers; the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which spent heavily to defend GOP state legislators after the battle over public employee unions; and American Crossroads, a super PAC started by Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s chief political strategist.

Nancy G. Kinder, $1 million

Unlike the other female mega-donors, Nancy Goins Kinder has been a major player in politics.

She is the second wife of Richard Kinder, co-founder and executive chair of Kinder Morgan Inc., an energy and pipeline corporation based in Houston.

Nancy Kinder has served as the executive director of the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, the regional co-chair for George W. Bush’s campaign in 2000 and the South Texas chair for the Bush-Cheney committee in 2004.

Indeed, some observers believe that Nancy Kinder is more interested in politics than her husband, who used his $30-million retirement package from Enron, where he had served as president from 1990 to 1996, to launch Kinder Morgan.

“I always thought Kinder was a reluctant political guy,” George Strong, a political consultant and former Enron lobbyist, told the Houston Press in 2003. “It’s Nancy who is interested in that sort of thing. She enjoys hobnobbing with senators and presidents.”

Nancy Kinder got her start in politics as an assistant to Kenneth Lay, the CEO who was a close friend of the Bush family and the co-chair of Bush’s 1992 reelection committee, who tapped her to coordinate the festivities of the convention. Lay, who had been dubbed “Kenny Boy” by George W. Bush, was convicted of securities fraud in 2006 following a monumental meltdown of the company. Nancy and Kenneth Kinder married in 1986 following his divorce from his first wife Anne with whom he had a child.

The Nancy and Richard Kinder Foundation focuses on parks and education. They donated $50 million to the Houston Parks Board for the Bayou Greenway 2020 Project. They also gave more than $15 million to Rice University in Houston to establish the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and $25 million to the University of Missouri in Columbia–Richard Kinder’s alma mater–to establish the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. They have also backed projects at the Bush Center at Southern Methodist University.

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