Republican presidential contender and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said his record proves he's unwilling to bow to special interests. As proof, he pointed toward his resistance to GOP front-runner and business mogul Donald Trump's attempts to sway him in favor of casino gambling during his time as governor in Florida. "I'm not going to be bought by anyone," Bush said. Trump retorted: "If I wanted it, I would have gotten it."
So who's telling the truth? As it turns out, Bush did resist attempts by Trump to get the political help he needed to see his casino dreams pass in Florida when he took office in 1999. Florida laws prevented casinos from expanding their offerings from bingo-styling games. Trump sought to see those laws change to allow for expanded offerings, but Bush made clear that wouldn’t happen under his leadership.
Trump also sought to build a multi-million dollar casino with the Seminole Tribe, and employed a prominent lobbyist in hopes of changing seeing his casino goals follow through. He reportedly hosted a fundraiser for the governor’s campaign and donated $50,000 to the Florida Republican Party, in what many saw as a move to influence gambling policy, the Associated Press reported.
Bush maintained his stance against gambling despite the pressure. Trump abandoned his plans for casinos in the Sunshine State not long after Bush became governor.
Trump has repeatedly boasted about his ability to bribe politicians. “I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me," Trump said during the first GOP debate in August.
Trump on Bush claim that he used donations in fruitless pursuit for Florida casino gambling: "If i wanted it, I would have gotten it."
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 17, 2015
The presidential hopeful and former governor has been out of the political scene since 2007, when he ended his second term as Florida governor. Bush was initially expected to lead the GOP race, but has failed to garner the level of support of Trump or former neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Bush has repeatedly gone head-to-head with Trump, as the fiery front-runner has called Bush out for his low-energy level. Bush has fired back, charging Trump of attempting to insult his way to the White House. Yet Bush's polite and mild demeanor has done little to build excitement around his campaign.
Considered an establishment Republican candidate in a race that has been dominated by political outliers, Bush has struggled to stand out and has steadily lost support in polls. A recent poll found support for Bush had fallen, as Carson has surged in the polls. Bush has seen support drop about seven percentage points since August.
Democrats have sought to link the former governor with the policies of his brother, former President George W. Bush, which were viewed by many as a failure. Bush has sought to distance himself from some of his brother's stances, insisting that he will act independently.