Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush's involvement with Bloomberg Philanthropies, which partnered with Planned Parenthood on a $50 million global reproductive health initiative, is coming under scrutiny as abortion re-emerges as a contentious primary campaign issue, Politico reports.
The former Florida governor served on the foundation's board from March 2010 until late 2014, when he stepped down from all nonprofit and private-sector boards. During a debate among Republican candidates last week, Bush was asked about a March 2014 grant from the foundation in support of Planned Parenthood's programs in Africa and Central America. During Bush's time as a board member, Bloomberg Philanthropies also funded other issues that are unpopular with conservative voters, including the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign and an obesity campaign in Mexico that led to a junk food tax.
"I joined the Bloomberg foundation because of Mike Bloomberg's shared commitment for meaningful education reform. That's why I was on it," said Bush. "We never had debate about the budget."
Chris Sununu, a Republican member of the New Hampshire Executive Council who voted last week to strip state funding from Planned Parenthood clinics there, doubted that Bush's ties to the foundation would determine most voters' decisions. "They'll look at the entire spectrum of a candidate, instead of at just one issue," said Sununu. "For some folks it's quite critical, for others it's lower down on the priority list."
Still, the connection to Bloomberg, the former three-term mayor of New York City and a moderate Republican known for championing liberal causes, could irk members of the GOP base who were already skeptical of Bush's conservative bona fides. During last week's debate, for instance, the National Rifle Association sponsored commercials attacking Bloomberg for trying to "outlaw your snack foods" and "dismantle your gun rights."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told Politico that while Bush's anti-abortion credentials are solid, "I do predict that every politician from now on will pay careful attention to whether he or she is giving directly or indirectly to Planned Parenthood."