Online Journal Contributing Editor, March 10, 2002.
The Florida Report by Jack McCarthy, Contributing editor
Scandals haunt Jeb Bush

March 10, 2002—Florida Governor Jeb Bush must be getting a little punch drunk by now.

Last year, rumors swept through Tallahassee that Vanity Fair and the tabloid, "The Globe," were on the cusp of breaking a story alleging an affair between Bush and controversial Florida Department of Management Services head Cynthia Henderson.

Before the Vanity Fair story came out the so called "Rumor" took on a life of its own when a Tallahassee Democrat veteran reporter wrote a column about the subject and speculation swept the corridors of the Florida Press Center.

That shoe never did quite drop. The Vanity Fair piece and the writer, David Margolick, did point out that the rumors were being spread by angry Republican rivals—not Democrats.

Margolick reported that although the alleged liason with Henderson was minus a smoking gun, reliable sources told him that Columba Bush did angrily lash out at another alleged object of Jebs affections, Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

Indeed, CNN's in-house conservative, Robert Novak, inflamed passions and stoked the fires of speculation when he wrote in his syndicated column that Jeb Bush might not run because of "family problems."

A hot under the collar Jeb Bush angrily declared to Florida reporters, "Bob Novak doesn't know what he's talking about."

After the "Rumor" died down, Jebs next PR crisis occurred at the end of last January, when his daughter Noelle was arrested and charged with felony prescription fraud.

Although Noelle has escaped prosecution and is reportedly on the mend in a drug rehab program, the arrest led to a spate of other stories indicating that the governor's daughter received special treatment.

Despite a horrendous driving record and several car crashes, including one with Tallahassee resident Sandra Morrow in which Ms. Bush told police she was taking a prescription drug, Noelle wasn't subjected to a drug or alcohol test when she pulled up at Walgreens to fetch her fraudulent prescription for Xanax.

More proof that the rich and powerful are different when it comes to the law occurred when several weeks ago the National Enquirer broke a story that Noelle had previously tried the same scam. The Enquirer had the smoking gun as well in the form of stolen prescription forms filled out and signed by Noelle. Those fraudulent prescriptions were for the painkiller OxyContin and Xanax.

Despite the smoking gun provided by the Enquirer and no denials from the Bush camp, the national and state media ignored the fact that Noelle Bush was a multiple offender.

The Jeb-Enron Connection

Now another potential PR bombshell has landed in the lap of Jeb Bush in the form of a front page story in the business section of the March 3 New York Times, with the headline "At the 11th hour, He Bought Enron. But Why?"

The story by Leslie Wayne, and datelined Tallahassee, speculates on the motives for why Alliance Capital Investment Management investor Alfred Harrison invested so much of Florida's pension funds in Enron even while the Enron stock was falling.

The Florida pension fund was the biggest loser, $350 million, next to Enron employees.

It surely brought no joy to Jeb's inner circle to see the paper of record point out that Jeb Bush, a state pension trustee and one of three who administer the state's pension fund, also had a direct economic relationship with Enron in the form of a partnership.

And that like his brother, George W, Jeb at times promoted Enron interests and received campaign donations from Enron executives.

The Times article notes also that speculation is rife that perhaps Jeb Bush had some role in the stock purchases, a charge denied by Bush and Alliance.

Still it doesn't bode well for Jeb that as he plans re-election strategy state Attorney General—and Democrat—Bob Butterworth will be investigating the pension fund fiasco.

And not to mention there will also be a high profile national look at the Florida pension fund issue by a U.S. Senate panel whose members include, as the Times points out, Florida's Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

Adding to Bush's public relations woes was a recent call by Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook, in both a newspaper ad and an article in the online magazine "," for Jeb to recuse himself from any role in investigating the Florida pension fund fiasco.

The infamous Watergate question, "What did he know and when did he know it" will inevitably be raised in the matter of Jeb Bush and Alliance Management.

Whether there's any fire in this latest Bush political brouhaha remains to be seen, not to mention all the previous scandals we won't go into here.

But without a doubt, Jeb Bush, like the Enron infested administration of his brother, is feeling the heat.