Jeb Bush’s planned campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has suffered a setback with revelations that his wife Columba spent $42,311 in a single day on jewellery including a Bulgari diamond bracelet

February 24, 2015 5:47 am

’s planned campaign for the Republican presidential
nomination has suffered a setback with revelations that his wife Columba
spent $42,311 in a single day on jewellery including a Bulgari diamond
bracelet.
Mrs Bush, 61, is reported to have taken out a loan of
$42,311 from a Florida jeweller in order to buy the bracelet and other
items.

Details of the purchases, reported first by the Washington
Post, have put a new spotlight on Mrs Bush, who during her husband’s
two terms as governor of Florida between 1999 and 2007 kept a notably
low profile and is known to have had reservations about his running for
president.
Records filed by Mayors Jewellers of Miami showed that
Mrs Bush, a Mexican national who met her husband in 1971 when he was an
exchange student, took out $90,000 in loans over a 15-year period. Most
recently, she bought a $11,700 Rolex watch and a $9,500 pair of
earrings. Mr Bush tweeted a wedding photograph yesterday to mark the
couple’s 41st wedding anniversary

Her aversion to publicity was in part born of another episode
when she failed to declare $19,000 in purchases made during a
spree in Paris in 1999. She was mortified at the political damage to her
husband but also felt unfairly treated by the press.
Mr Bush
made clear his desire to seek the presidency before Christmas,
reportedly after securing the acquiescence of his wife in return for a
promise to make time for his family every week.
Her Mexican roots
and his own mastery of Spanish could prove an asset for a party seeking
to heal rifts with the Hispanic community. At issue now, however, is
whether her distaste for politics and her jewellery collection might
instead make her net negative.
If Mr Bush formally declares, the
scrutiny will only intensify and simply opting out of the campaign
circus will not be an option for Mrs Bush. If her husband becomes the
nominee and Hillary Clinton runs for the Democrats, the contrast between
the spouses would be stark: Columba, the low-key spouse, versus Bill
Clinton, her extrovert opposite.
“She doesn’t enjoy the
limelight,” Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant with the Potomac
Strategy Group, conceded. “But if she gets more comfortable then she
could become a powerful political spouse. She is unique and she has a
year to ramp up. That’s the question: Is she going to get to the point
where she can be of value to the campaign?”
Any perception of
living high on the hog is dangerous for a candidate and perhaps
especially for Mr Bush, who has vowed to focus on income inequality. It
hurt Mitt Romney in 2012. Some still recall the damaging jibe by the
late Ann Richards, a former Texas governor, in 1988 mocking then
presidential candidate George H. W. Bush – Jeb’s father – as having a
“silver foot in his mouth”.
It also represents peril for Mrs
Clinton, who has been criticised for using the period since she left the
State Department in early 2013 to deliver speeches for exorbitant fees,
sometimes $200,000 a time.
The queasiness of Mrs Bush, born
Columba Garnica Gallo, was surely also fed by an experience in Mr Bush’s
first term as governor when their daughter, Noelle, then 24, was
convicted after using a fake prescription to buy pain-killing drugs. She
was sent to a rehabilitation clinic but later endured stints in prison
for possession of proscribed pills and crack cocaine.
Mrs Bush’s
shopping excursions should not present too much of a threat, said Mr
Mackowiak. “It’s hard for me to see that would be a significant
liability. What matters more than how she spends money is Jeb. And he
has a reputation of being pretty frugal.”

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