Bush stumps in Cedar Rapids

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Bush stumps in Cedar Rapids

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The Republican presidential candidate wants to crackdown on Washington lobbying practices. The problem: Lobbyists are helping his national campaign.

By Quentin Misiag
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jeb Bush, appearing energetic and light on his feet with eastern Iowa Republican donors Tuesday, had a bold and sweeping message for Washington lobbying firms and federal taxes: I’m coming for you.

“We need lobbying reform in Washington, D.C.,” Bush said, surrounded by a room of some 80 GOP donors, including several prominent fundraisers for presidential hopefuls. “Elected officials shouldn’t go out the back door when they finish their service and immediately start lobbying the people that they serve with.”

With golf-course views serving as his backdrop, he stood for more than 30 minutes in an effort to ignite attention from the audience, largely composed of Cedar Rapids-area Republicans.

And while his Right to Rise super PAC is keeping his fundraising coffers full, endorsers from Cedar Rapids — Iowa’s second largest city and an area with strong Republican ground organizing — could expand his name recognition.

The punches at lobbying powerhouses on Washington’s K Street were thrown on Bush’s second-to-last stop on his latest Iowa tour.

K Street is often referred to loosely as D.C.’s group of lobbying firms that have a long history of employing former lawmakers.

In front of activists, Bush iterated his proposal for a six-year ban on lobbying for U.S. lawmakers.

The current federal mandate requires one year for members of the House and two years for senators.

But those comments don’t exactly stack up with his national campaign.

Several D.C. lobbyists worked for Bush’s national campaign message this summer, as he worked to rake it fundraising and expanding his ground game in early presidential voting states.

As he has done in every Iowa visit, Bush connected his tenure as Florida governor (1999-2007) to his presidential campaign.

In Florida, Bush said he used the guiding principle that “government shouldn’t grow faster than people’s ability to pay for it.

“I know that’s kind of a radical idea when you think about Washington, D.C.,” he said at the Cedar Rapids Country Club, as a small group of attendees laughed at his dig at Capitol Hill.

If elected, Bush said, he would grow the nation’s economy at 4.4 percent a year. That figure, he said would lift more people out of poverty.

A line of comparison: The “Obama economics” that Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would utilize would create 2 percent or less growth, Bush said.

Among the GOP candidates, Bush ranks low in the number of visits to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus grounds this cycle, according to Daily Iowan records.

His last stopover in Cedar Rapids came in March, when he filled a party room at the Pizza Ranch, 2450 Westdale Dr. SW., prior to the launch of his White House bid. That visit, he said, was his first trip back to Iowa since 1980.

Despite a six-month hiatus, many of those guests who listened to him speak over pizza and a dinner buffet, including Cedar Rapids City Councilor Scott Olson and Joni Scotter, a top Linn County activist who backed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, came back Tuesday.

Many were also expected to attend a fundraiser with Bush for state Rep. Ken Rizer in Cedar Rapids Tuesday evening.

In the latest Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday, Bush polled near the middle of the GOP presidential pack, at 8 percent.

The poll, conducted Sept. 18-20 by phone and the Internet, surveyed 488 Republican primary voters and 494 usual Democratic primary voters. The poll’s margin of error for both parties is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Several Bush supporters rebuked the notion that he isn’t taken Iowa seriously. Some, like Scotter, said Bush stands alone, without a true rival.

The youngest Republican in attendance was 17-year-old Cedar Rapids Kennedy High student Spencer Wilhelm.

Wilhelm, who has seen Bush seven times in Iowa and plans to caucus for Bush on Feb. 1, said the former governor narrowly beat out Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for his upcoming vote.

“Others are more extreme,” Wilhelm said in reference to Bush. “He’s just right. Right in the middle.”

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