George Bush, Failed Corporate Crook

Nitwit Scion Turns Avenger

That August, Harken posts a loss of $23 million.

• January 1991: Daddy Bush attacks Iraq.

• February 1991: Dubya, as the official in charge at Harken, reports his big stock sale to the SEC—eight months late.

Bush the blue-blood rails against the corporate practices that made him rich.
Photo: Eric Draper
Bush the blue-blood rails against the corporate practices that made him rich.

• April 1991: The SEC begins an investigation into Harken dealings. Chairman Richard Breeden, who had been appointed by the senior Bush and served him as an economic policy adviser, hails from Baker & Botts, a big Texas oil law firm where he was a partner. Inside the SEC, James Doty, general counsel and the official in charge of any litigation that might come out of the Harken investigation, is another alumnus of Baker & Botts. And as a private attorney, before joining the government, Doty represented the younger Bush in matters related to Dubya's ownership of the Rangers.

• 1993: The SEC ends its Harken investigation following perfunctory interviews.

The good people of Baker & Botts continued looking out for Shrub. Since 1993, Breeden, Doty, and other lawyers there have given him $182,050 for his various political campaigns, making the firm one of his biggest supporters.

That's how the network functioned in the Harken affair. Dubya also has historic mentors among his kin. During the Second World War, for example, the government investigated his grandfather, Prescott Bush, and his maternal great-grandfather, Bert Walker. Under the Trading With the Enemy Act, officials seized Bush stockholdings, charging that "huge sections of Prescott Bush's empire had been operated on behalf of Nazi Germany and had greatly assisted the German war effort."

When it comes to business, the contemporary Bush men have been equally good role models for Dubya. Think about it:

• Dubya brother Neil Bush made the news during the late 1980s because he was a director of Silverado Savings & Loan, which went broke and ended up costing taxpayers about $1 billion. In the Silverado case, federal investigators accused Neil of conflicts of interest, but he was never prosecuted. The Resolution Trust Company, set up to bail out bankrupt S&Ls, brought a civil suit against Bush and other Silverado officers. The case was eventually settled for $26.5 million.

• Prescott Bush Jr., a brother of Bush Senior, was reported in 1989 to have arranged investments in two U.S. firms by an alleged front company for the Japanese mob, a task for which he was allegedly paid $500,000. Prescott denied any knowledge of mob involvement.

• In 1991, Jonathan Bush, the Daddy Bush brother who spearheaded the family effort to get Dubya set up in business, was himself fined $30,000 in Massachusetts and several thousand in Connecticut for violating registration laws governing securities sales. He was barred from securities brokerage with the general public in Massachusetts for one year.

• Then there's George W.'s other brother, Jeb, currently standing for re-election as governor of Florida, who defaulted on a $4.5 million S&L loan in 1988, plunging the thrift over the edge. Jeb and his partners paid but 10 percent back.

With his own personal landscape a minefield of weird business dealings, Bush the younger has to watch his step. For him, leaving a few stones unturned might be a wise choice. Thus does he find himself at once making a show of righteous anger and shielding his wealthy friends. "You need to know that by far the vast majority, by far, of corporate America are above-board," he said, "and doing their job just the way you'd expect them to do."

Additional reporting: Cassandra Lewis

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