Bush dials Asia for campaign donations

Jeb Bush, the former Republican Florida governor now running for president, is tapping US expatriates in China for campaign contributions, as he starts a series of fundraising calls in Asia to raise money for the 2016 race.

Mr Bush is expected to raise about $100,000 when he speaks by video conference to supporters in Hong Kong and mainland China on Wednesday. Each of the 40 people scheduled to attend the breakfast event, which will be held at Hong Kong’s International Finance Center, will pay $2,700 — the maximum allowed under campaign finance rules — to hear Mr Bush speak.

Mr Bush was the early favourite to win the GOP nomination but his campaign has struggled to gain momentum as he faces 16 rivals, including Donald Trump, the real estate magnate who has surged to lead the field. However, he continues to dominate in terms of fundraising. By the end of June, he and his outside supporters had attracted $114m in donations.

While Mr Bush comfortably leads the other Republicans and Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, in fundraising, the fact that there are 22 contenders coupled with looser campaign finance rules means 2016 will easily surpass the $2.6bn spending record in the last election.

Mrs Clinton on Tuesday unveiled proposals to reform campaign finance, echoing a popular line from her stump speeches about the need to reduce the influence of big money.

“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans,” she said.

Mrs Clinton advocated overturning a Supreme Court ruling that allowed outside groups to provide unlimited funding for candidates, passing legislation to force more disclosure of donations, and pushing the SEC to require companies to reveal all contributions. She also wants to create a small donor matching system to force candidates to pay more attention to the view of regular voters.

But Mrs Clinton also faces criticism for talking about reform while raising money from rich donors and relying on so-called Super-Pacs, the political action committees which can raise unlimited sums for candidates following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

On the Hong Kong call, Mr Bush will speak for 10 minutes before taking questions, according to Michael DeSombre, global president of Republicans Overseas, who is organising the event. During the 2012 election, Mr DeSombre, a partner at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, helped raise more than $2m in Asia for Mitt Romney, who lost out to Barack Obama.

“That caught people’s attention and helped them realise there’s an opportunity to raise good money here,” said Mr DeSombre, who said his group is focusing on the 8.7m Americans living overseas.

“If they were a state, they would be the 13th biggest by population, but historically they have not had a voice because many do not vote.”

Mr Bush is by no means the only 2016 contender who is hoping to raise money from Americans living overseas, but he is expected to have a big advantage in Asia because of the networks created by his father and brother, who both served as president.

One supporter said the Hong Kong event was just the first of many that he would hold in Asia. He said few of the other Republican candidates had the ability to raise as much money in Asia because “Bush just has stature in the region”.

The Bush campaign declined to discuss the Asia push, but Allie Brandenburger, a spokesperson, said Mr Bush “welcomes the support he has received from American expatriates all over the globe”.

Mr DeSombre said the US business community in greater China was keen to have its voice heard on issues from foreign policy to the tax demands on expatriates. While many Republicans have called on the US to take a tougher stance on China, some of those in China are less keen to rock the boat.

“China is an issue that divides a lot of Republicans out here,” said Mr DeSombre. “The question is: how do we engage in a positive way while still being strong?”

Mr Bush was the early favourite to win the GOP nomination but his campaign has struggled to gain momentum as he faces 16 rivals, including Donald Trump, the real estate magnate who has surged to lead the field. However, he continues to dominate in terms of fundraising. By the end of June, he and his outside supporters had attracted $114m in donations.

While Mr Bush comfortably leads the other Republicans and Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, in fundraising, the fact that there are 22 contenders coupled with looser campaign finance rules means 2016 will easily surpass the $2.6bn spending record in the last election.

Mrs Clinton on Tuesday unveiled proposals to reform campaign finance, echoing a popular line from her stump speeches about the need to reduce the influence of big money.

“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans,” she said.

Mrs Clinton advocated overturning a Supreme Court ruling that allowed outside groups to provide unlimited funding for candidates, passing legislation to force more disclosure of donations, and pushing the SEC to require companies to reveal all contributions. She also wants to create a small donor matching system to force candidates to pay more attention to the view of regular voters.

But Mrs Clinton also faces criticism for talking about reform while raising money from rich donors and relying on so-called Super-Pacs, the political action committees which can raise unlimited sums for candidates following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

On the Hong Kong call, Mr Bush will speak for 10 minutes before taking questions, according to Michael DeSombre, global president of Republicans Overseas, who is organising the event. During the 2012 election, Mr DeSombre, a partner at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, helped raise more than $2m in Asia for Mitt Romney, who lost out to Barack Obama.

“That caught people’s attention and helped them realise there’s an opportunity to raise good money here,” said Mr DeSombre, who said his group is focusing on the 8.7m Americans living overseas.

“If they were a state, they would be the 13th biggest by population, but historically they have not had a voice because many do not vote.”

Mr Bush is by no means the only 2016 contender who is hoping to raise money from Americans living overseas, but he is expected to have a big advantage in Asia because of the networks created by his father and brother, who both served as president.

One supporter said the Hong Kong event was just the first of many that he would hold in Asia. He said few of the other Republican candidates had the ability to raise as much money in Asia because “Bush just has stature in the region”.

The Bush campaign declined to discuss the Asia push, but Allie Brandenburger, a spokesperson, said Mr Bush “welcomes the support he has received from American expatriates all over the globe”.

Mr DeSombre said the US business community in greater China was keen to have its voice heard on issues from foreign policy to the tax demands on expatriates. While many Republicans have called on the US to take a tougher stance on China, some of those in China are less keen to rock the boat.

“China is an issue that divides a lot of Republicans out here,” said Mr DeSombre. “The question is: how do we engage in a positive way while still being strong?”

Source:: ft.com

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