1. Archive

Jeb is running with weighty Bush name

I think I've memorized all the scandals of the Bush family. It's difficult to keep them all straight.

George Bush, the former president, was implicated in the plot to illegally fund Nicaraguan guerrillas.

George's son, Neil, was a director of Silverado Savings and Loan in Denver. He used his position on the board to help approve $132-million in loans to his business partners. Neil and his amigos at Silverado agreed to pay $49.5-million to settle a lawsuit filed by the feds.

Another son, George W. Bush, sold two-thirds of his stock in Harken Energy Corp. in 1990 for about $848,000. This was about a week before the price of Harken shares tumbled upon news of lousy earnings. Though George W. Bush was a member of Harken's board of directors at the time, he said he had not traded on inside information.

George W. Bush is running for governor of Texas.

Then there is George and Barbara's son, Jeb. He is the Miami real estate developer who is running for governor of Florida.

I know it is a little unfair to hold a guy's family against him but you really have to wonder whether it's wise to elect a Bush. And Jeb Bush is no model of virtue himself. His visit to Pasco County proved that much.

He looked down his nose during a visit to the Times office and stated that there is no use in banning or restricting the availability of assault weapons. Gun control won't work, he said, and he applauded the demise of legislation in Tallahassee to restrict assault weapons.

Bush said his opinion is "based on talking to literally 50 people in law enforcement over a month period . . .

"Not anybody in law enforcement thinks (gun control) works and I have learned to value the opinion of people who are in the business," Bush said.

I spent about 30 minutes finding a cop who thinks restrictions on assault weapons would work. That person, Tony Loizzo, is a full-time sergeant for the Metro Dade Police Department. Loizzo also is the executive vice president of the National Association of Police Organizations.

Police officers are outgunned by criminals who tote assault weapons, Loizzo said, and their body armor is useless against such firepower. A ban on civilian possession, he said, is an excellent idea.

Bush also was critical last week of Florida's "prisoner welfare fund." He described it as a $2.5-million fund "to help prisoners survive the prison experience."

Bush said the fund buys weights for body building and cable television for inmates. He said money for the fund comes from long-distance telephone companies, which pay the Florida Department of Corrections to handle telephone traffic from state prisons.

"I think that's our money," Bush said. "I think that money ought to go to the victims' compensation fund."

Bush's audience loved that line, though it is only partly accurate.

The inmate welfare fund is worth about $30-million, according to Jim Biddy, chief of the Bureau of Finance and Accounting for the Department of Corrections.

Most of the money in the fund is used to purchase supplies, such as toothpaste, cigarettes and candy bars, which are sold for a profit to inmates through prison canteens.

Prisoners use their own money to make purchases, Biddy said.

Canteen profits go back to the inmate welfare fund, which is authorized by law to use the money to buy educational materials, library books, hymnals for prison chapels, recreational supplies such as basketballs and softballs as well as weights, cable television and movies.

Biddy said Bush is correct in stating that long-distance telephone carriers pay the department of corrections a commission to handle outgoing, collect calls from state prisons. These commissions, he said, also go to the inmate welfare fund.

I don't know. Maybe Bush is right. Maybe telephone company commissions should go to crime victims. But the inmate welfare fund is hardly "our money." It's actually inmates' money.

Besides, what should inmates do to occupy their time? Personally, I don't have a problem with books and hymnals, or even weights and cable television. Maybe Bush would rather lock them into dungeons and flog them daily for good measure.

I also had to wonder about Bush's choice of Pasco pols for pals. Bush showed up for an interview at the Times office with Mike Fasano, the president of the West Pasco GOP Club.

Politically speaking, Fasano is hardly the guy to attract a majority of Republican primary voters in Pasco. I guess these Bushes just can't stay out of trouble.