Monday, June 15, 2015

What Jeb Bush's shady Nigerian business deal says about his judgment

In 1989, Jeb Bush paid a visit to Nigeria. As the son of a sitting president, he was greeted like royalty, with tens of thousands of Nigerians lining the streets to welcome Bush to their nation. But as Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer notes, Jeb wasn't there to engage in diplomacy. Instead, he was hawking an industrial water pump to government officials in Nigeria. It turned into a complicated business deal worth around $80 million (give or take, depending on who's reporting) that we've mentioned before.

But Mencimer brings a fresh eye to documenting the entire ordeal, which resulted in a Justice Department investigation and charges of fraud being brought against the water pump company, MWI Corp. Though Bush was never implicated in the investigation (only his business partners were), Mencimer concludes that the whole sordid episode does indict Bush's judgment even if his dealings weren't criminal in nature.  

Bush lent his name—and that of his prominent family—to an enterprise with hazards that should have been obvious. Nigeria, then as now, was infamous for its corruption that was virtually inescapable for anyone attempting to do business there. And according to the Justice Department and testimony in the trial, the company Bush was promoting sold overpriced agricultural equipment to an impoverished nation whose people often couldn't use it. In the process, the deal put the already indebted nation further into hock to foreign creditors.

Bush did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but as he prepares to announce his bid for the presidency, questions still linger about the exact part he played in a deal that the Justice Department said took advantage of both the Nigerian people and American taxpayers.

Bush was 36 years old at the time he initiated this deal—old enough to know right from wrong and to have some sense of whether he was using his privileged perch as the son of a president to manipulate the system. If he didn't cross that line, it sure sounds like he straddled it. If you would like to read the entirety of Mencimer's piece, you can find it here.

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