S&L connection sidelines Neil Bush Father's campaign uses other children

April 25, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Four years ago, George Bush's son Neil was praised as a "secret weapon" after campaigning for his father in 34 states.

But this year he is a Democratic weapon. Tainted by the savings-and-loan scandal, he alone among the five Bush children will not be playing a formal role in the president's last campaign.

The Democrats will be attempting to make Neil Bush a campaign issue because of his involvement with the failed Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association of Denver. He was reprimanded by federal regulators and had to pay $50,000 to help settle a government suit arising from Silverado's $1 billion collapse.

Neil's wife, Sharon, is carrying the family banner in the 1992 campaign. The only member of the Bush clan who will be paid for campaign work, she is on the payroll of the publicly funded Republican Convention Committee, receiving $2,546 a month to coordinatethe activities of volunteers at the national convention in Houston.

She declined to be interviewed. The mother of three, a former schoolteacher, has had "years of experience organizing volunteers" in Colorado for the 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, according to Joe Fleming, the convention spokesman.

Neil and Sharon Bush have been under financial pressure as a result of the S&L litigation, which led family friends to form a fund to help pay more than $250,000 in legal bills. Amid controversy over his ties to two federally subsidized investment companies, Neil resigned his job with a Denver oil company and moved to Houston, where he was hired by a cable TV company run by a longtime family friend and political supporter.

Son Jeb Bush, 39, also was tarred by the banking scandal. A $4.6 million loan taken out for him and a partner went into default, contributing to the 1988 failure of Broward Federal Savings and Loan Association in Sunrise, Fla.

The president's brother, Prescott S. Bush Jr., has been scrutinized by the media for his Asian business activities. He has benefited from the president's efforts to maintain good relations with China and has received fees for bringing together a Japanese company, which Tokyo police said was controlled by a Japanese mobster, with other firms. There is no evidence that he was aware of possible criminal connections.

Prescott and Jeb Bush are among 10 family members accorded formal roles in the campaign.

Prescott is a member of the president's campaign finance committee in Connecticut; Jeb is chairman of the Florida campaign. The president's daughter, Dorothy, 32, is honorary chairwoman of the campaign in Maryland; his son Marvin, 35, is honorary chairman in his state of Virginia and Marvin's wife, Margaret, is a volunteer at the national campaign headquarters in Washington.

One brother of the president, Jonathan, is general chairman in New York, while another, William "Bucky" Bush, is finance chairman in Missouri. Their sister, Nancy Bush Ellis, is honorary chairwoman of the national finance committee.

The president's eldest son, George W., 45, is senior adviser and with Jeb will be the family's most active campaigners -- other than First Lady Barbara Bush, who is the president's most popular supporter and needs no campaign title.

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