Bush brothers team up to make donors out of young Republicans

Chris Moody
George P. Bush, left, talks to guests prior to making the opening statements at the Texas Business Leadership Council, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

In a time when so many Republican groups are searching for ways to persuade young Americans to support them in the ballot booth, the sons of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have taken up perhaps a more difficult task: Making donors out of them.

The Bush boys, 37-year-old George P. Bush and Jeb Bush Jr., 29—nephews and grandchildren of American presidents—are working to encourage right-leaning millennials and Gen Xers to start giving to Republican campaigns and causes through Maverick PAC, a group George P. co-founded in 2004. Jeb Jr. serves as a state co-chair of the organization and runs his own political action committee out of Florida, SunPAC, which promotes Hispanic Republican candidates.

Last weekend, MavPAC held its annual members-only conference for the first time in Miami, Fla., where young GOP donors gathered at the Mandarin Oriental hotel to hear keynote addresses from Republican leaders such as Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

“We’re trying to get people who are interested in politics who have been successful in law, business or entrepreneurship to get them further engaged in the political process—and hopefully run for office one day,” Jeb Jr. told Yahoo News in an interview about the conference, which was closed to nonmembers and media.

The tallest hurdle to making the pitch for those new to politics, he said, was what he described as “a general distrust” of politics among the young people that he and his brother are trying to reach.

Through MavPAC events, where attendance requires only a few hundreds dollars to participate, he hopes to introduce them to a nationwide network of other young Republicans seeking influence.

“There’s a disappointment and a huge distrust in the overall system. That’s the pushback I get,” Jeb Jr. said. “I think especially young voters who came out strongly for Obama in 2008 and even in 2012 really feel let down, just based on the promises that he made, nothing really came to fruition. A lot of people have student debt, can’t get a job and just see two parties bickering. They don’t necessarily want to be engaged. They’re frustrated.”

Last year, MavPAC spread out donations from about 3,500 members and spent $149,000 on more than 60 congressional races. (The group spent about $1.5 million on outreach.) In preparation for next year’s midterm elections, MavPAC organizers are aiming to double their investment.

Last weekend, about 250 donors from 18 states ranging in age from their early 20s to 40s made the trip to Miami for the MavPAC conference, where they attended panels on immigration reform—Jeb Jr. and George P. have both been strong advocates for overhauling the nation’s system—and on GOP renewal.

Jay Zeidman, co-chairman of MavPAC, said the group is one of a few outside groups focusing exclusively on promoting young Republicans.

“I haven’t seen a lot of other organizations that are really focused on mobilizing people in their 20s and 30s—the postcollege Republican demographic—and that’s really what we’re focused on,” Zeidman told Yahoo News. “As a party, our goal is to widen the tent.”

During the weekend conference, Bush and Rubio did not mention anything about possible presidential ambitions during their keynote addresses, Zeidman said, but he characterized their speeches, in which both emphasized their own journeys in public service, as “inspirational.” (Jeb Jr. said last year that he hopes his father runs in 2016.)

“Jeb gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard,” Zeidman said of Bush’s address at the conference. “Just short of announcing that he’s running for president.”

But regardless of whether Jeb Bush decides to run for president in three years, the Bush brothers' involvement in the PAC business makes one thing clear: When it comes to politics, one way or another, the Bush family is here to stay.