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Jeb Bush's Wealth Skyrocketed After He Left Governor's Office

Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits backstage as he is introduced before speaking at the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits backstage as he is introduced before speaking at the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush released 33 years of tax returns on Tuesday, showing that his personal wealth has skyrocketed since he left the Florida governor's office in 2007.

The White House hopeful earned about $29 million during that time, a substantial jump from his income before becoming governor — helped by a mix of speaking fees, investments, his capital investment company Jeb Bush & Associates, work with Barclay's and consulting for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers.

In 2013, he reported earning $7.4 million — his highest income ever. Since leaving the governorship, his didn't make less than $1.9 million, despite the worst economic recession since the Great Depression hitting in 2008.

Bush's tax returns date back to 1981 when he was in his late 20s and just beginning his career in Miami in real estate and investments after working for a branch of a Texas bank in Venezuela. That first year, he earned $42,000, which, when adjusted for inflation, has the buying power today of nearly $110,000.

Bush's wealth would climb. In 1998, the year he was elected governor, he earned $738,000 (about $1.1 million today). It dipped while he was in office and receiving a government salary.

"Today's release comes in the same spirit because most of my adult life has been spent in the private sector — not in government," Bush wrote on his website alongside the returns. "This release will show voters how I earned a living over the past three decades and how much of that living I had to give back to Uncle Sam. (Spoiler Alert: A LOT)."

The 1,150 pages of new documents are intended to draw a contrast with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who has been under fire for using a private email server as secretary of state. The State Department is set to release another batch of those emails late Tuesday night. Earlier this year, Bush released 280,000 emails from his time as Florida governor.

According to Bush's campaign, he and his wife, Columba, paid an average effective tax rate of 36 percent over the past three decades. In its press release on the tax returns, the Bush campaign pitted Bush's effective rate against the Clintons' 30 percent 2014 rate. Both, however, are far more than 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney's effective rate on the year of taxes he released when running for president. Bush's 2014 returns were not yet available, and they have received an extension to file them in October.

Bush also noted he and his wife had given $739,000 to charity since 2007, along with raising funds for several other philanthropic ventures and foundations.

The massive document dump equates to the most years of released tax returns from any presidential candidate in history. Previously, 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole released 30 years worth of returns, while 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry released two decades.

It's also more than either Bush's father or brother made available before their presidential bids. George H.W. Bush released 14 years of returns in 1988, while George W. Bush released nine years' worth in 2000.

The effort to be transparent is also a nod to the problems that dogged Romney. Four years ago, the wealthy businessman released just one year and an estimate of his other returns. The secrecy and his accumulated wealth was a point Democrats effectively hit him on.

Bush also used the complicated web of finances as a pitch for a simpler tax code, noting he had just returned from a trip to Estonia, "where it takes residents less than five minutes to file their taxes."

"Taken altogether, it's been a rewarding and full life," Bush wrote. "I've been graced with good fortune, by having the most wonderful parents in the world, the best business partners a man could ask for, and opportunities that are out of reach for too many Americans. But part of the reason they are out of reach is that we have a tax code that stifles growth and opportunity. In my case, I paid the government more than one in three dollars that I earned in my career. Astounding."

View Jeb Bush's 2013 tax return below, and other years here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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