POLITICS

Republican Economic Veterans Advising Jeb Bush

04/01/2015 07:00 am ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015

By Steve Holland, Anna Yukhananov and Lauren Tara LaCapra

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - Glenn Hubbard and Kevin Warsh, veteran Republican economic policymakers and critics of the Fed's ultra-loose monetary policy, have emerged as top economic advisers to likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush, Republican sources said on Tuesday.

Hubbard, who served as the top White House economist for former President George W. Bush, was one of the architects of Bush's tax cuts. Hubbard also advised Mitt Romney in his 2012 bid for the presidency and together with Warsh was mooted as a possible Treasury secretary if Romney made it to the White House.

Hubbard, dean of the business school at Columbia University, has close ties to financial companies, including insurer Metlife Inc and BlackRock Inc, the world's largest money manager.

Warsh served on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors during the Bush years.

Jeb Bush has been weighing a presidential bid and is expected to make a formal announcement within the coming months.

Two Republicans familiar with the matter confirmed the roles of Hubbard and Warsh. A Bush spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

Hubbard, in an emailed statement, would not confirm the connection with Bush, saying he was willing to discuss economic policies with any presidential contender, including Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"I think Governor Bush would be an excellent president, with his focus on economic growth, work, and opportunity. I would be happy to talk with any candidate about economic ideas - including Secretary Clinton," he said.

Warsh was not immediately available to comment.

Bill Simon, a former Wal-Mart chief executive who served on Bush's team when he was governor of Florida, is assembling policy experts for his prospective candidacy, Republican sources said.

ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS

Jeb Bush laid out his economic vision in February, saying he wanted to close the "opportunity gap," and reduce income inequality with solutions that do not rely heavily on government.

Hubbard has also called for less government. He has described President Barack Obama's signature health care law as a job killer and opposes Democratic proposals to raise the minimum wage.

He has advocated corporate and individual income tax cuts and shifting toward consumption taxes. He also favors expanded tax credits for the working poor.

Hubbard has kept his Rolodex up to date since leaving government, inviting corporate executives and economic policy experts to events and lectures at Columbia, according to a former colleague in the Bush administration.

But he has also come under fire for his close ties to the financial world.

In the 2010 documentary "Inside Job," filmmaker Charles Ferguson questioned him about his relationships with big banks including his involvement with Goldman Sachs Group Inc's Global Markets Institute while serving as dean of the business school.

He was also a researcher and expert witness in 2012 for subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Inc in a lawsuit over toxic mortgage securities.

The criticism prompted Columbia to change its policy to require business school professors to publicly disclose outside activities that could pose a conflict.

Hubbard's biography on Columbia's web site lists him as a member of the boards of directors for Metlife Inc and payroll company Automatic Data Processing Inc, as well as the board of BlackRock Inc's closed-end fund business, earning him, according to SEC filings, over half a million dollars in recent years.

INFLATION HAWK

During his tenure at the Federal Reserve, Warsh worked closely with then-Chairman Ben Bernanke battling the 2007-2009 financial crisis, serving as a conduit for communications with Wall Street firms.

Warsh has criticized the Fed's aggressive monetary easing, and has said he was worried about the risk of a financial bubble.

"The Fed has been spoiling financial markets since the depths of the financial crisis," he told CNBC on Tuesday.

But Warsh disagrees with Republicans who have called for greater congressional oversight of the Fed's monetary policy decision-making.

For his part, Hubbard has said the Fed's initial bond buying helped stabilize the U.S. economy after the financial crisis, but later on the securities purchases failed to do much to lift the economy and posed too many risks.

Warsh was among the Fed's richest top officials when he joined it in 2006. Financial disclosures released in 2010 stated that as of the previous year, his wife Jane Lauder, granddaughter of the founder of the Estee Lauder cosmetics company, had assets worth at least $66.3 million. Warsh listed assets worth between $702,000 and $1.5 million. (Additional reporting by Howard Schneider in Washington; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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