First Round: No more beating around the Bush

There’s clearly been a mistake. First Round’s invitation to former Florida governor and Republican US presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s next fundraiser has yet to arrive. It must have got lost in the mail.

But when it does drop on the mat, First Round might just hold off dry-cleaning its tux.

And it suspects that private equity execs Bush is buddies with, like KKR co-founder Henry Kravis, who hosted a Bush fundraiser in February at $100,000 a plate, might do the same.

To heighten his appeal to “the little guy” by beefing up his anti-Wall Street cred, Bush has taken aim at the motors of the private equity industry. He has gone farther than rival Republican candidate Donald Trump – a feat in itself – in talking up a tax hike on carried interest and proposing to eliminate the tax deductibility of interest payments on corporate loans. Bush’s friends, some of whom have made a healthy living out of LBOs, may no longer be returning his calls.

Now, First Round is all for a public discussion about the value of the industry, particularly transparency of fees and expenses. It is also first in line to submit its tax return. (And, as an aside, it is somewhat impressed and bewildered by the oddball bipartisan bedfellows Bush, Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have made over carried interest.)

But, on the political rhetoric – hold on a minute. Private equity can be for the little guy too. The industry needs to press the point to the public. Goodness knows, if the folks at long-time limited partners the California Public Employees Retirement System can draw a blank on the PE basics, your average Joe, unless their company is owned by PE and even then, is probably in the dark.

In the high beam of a presidential campaign, more firms need to follow the likes of Riverside Company that made the trek up to the Hill to knock on the doors of members of Congress to explain what private equity does and what its tangible value can be: job creation, business expansion and overall economic growth.

Only that way, will your average voter understand what carried interest payments are for.

Now, was that the mailman?