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Greenberg's big donation to Bush super-PAC was made 'months ago'

A donation of $10 million to a super-PAC supporting Jeb Bush was made through CV Starr & Co., Greenberg 's insurance company. (Photo: Starr & Co.)
A donation of $10 million to a super-PAC supporting Jeb Bush was made through CV Starr & Co., Greenberg 's insurance company. (Photo: Starr & Co.)

(Bloomberg) -- Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's insurance company donated $10 million to a super-PAC supporting Republican Jeb Bush's bid for the White House, making him one of the biggest contributors to the 2016 presidential race yet.

The donation, Greenberg said in an interview, was made "months ago'' to the group Right to Rise USA. 

"I thought at the time that we made the contribution that he had a very good chance of being the nominee," Greenberg said of Bush. "I think he's an outstanding executive, a good leader."

Bush has struggled to improve his standing in polls despite unrivaled spending by the super-PAC. A RealClearPolitics average of polls in Iowa has Bush at 4.8%, behind Senator Ted Cruz's leading 31.8%. In New Hampshire, where the first primary in the nation will be held in February, Bush was at 8.3%, trailing Republican Donald Trump's 27%.

As of July 1, the pro-Bush group had already raised more than $100 million, far outpacing the outside groups supporting other candidates. The war chest made Bush, the former Florida governor, the early front-runner in 2015, a position that he ultimately fell from as other Republicans, such as Trump, road a tidal wave of enthusiasm for anti-establishment candidates. 

"I think Jeb Bush would be an outstanding leader," Greenberg said Thursday in a telephone interview. "You don’t tell leadership by how loudly you shout. I think he would be a great leader. He did a very good job as governor of Florida. He comes from a family that served our country well. His father was an outstanding president."

Greenberg said he doesn’t know if he'll contribute more money to support Bush. 

The donation, which was made through CV Starr & Co., Greenberg's insurance company, has already prompted criticism from opponents quick to tie Bush to the financial bailout overseen by his brother, former President George W. Bush.

American International Group Inc., the company that Greenberg built over decades into the biggest insurer in the world, was bailed out during the 2008 crisis, years after Greenberg had left the company. AIG repaid the assistance in 2012, leaving the government with a $22.7 billion profit.

"Bush super PAC is using his brother's bailout money to bailout his campaign," Senator Rand Paul, who's running against Bush, said in a social media posting Thursday. 

Greenberg fought the federal government over the terms of the rescue, which he said were too harsh on shareholders. A federal judge in June ruled in his favor. However, the judge also ruled that investors would probably have gotten nothing without the deal, and awarded Greenberg none of the $40 billion in damages he sought for shareholders.

Greenberg's contribution was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal. 

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