Most politicians and businessmen get to where they are and maintain the position through cultivating friendships in high places – often with each other. In politics and business alike, money talks, and many alliances are bought with dollars and cents, as opposed to camaraderie.
Perhaps, few know this better than the husband and wife who spent $1.3 million trying to make Jeb Bush President of the United States. Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen are Chinese expatriates living in Singapore and have created relationships with many American politicians, aside from Jeb Bush. In fact, they have strongly supported the Bush family for several years.
Supporting Bush – and Other Politicians
One of many firms owned by the couple, American Pacific International reportedly made a donation of $1.3 million to Right to Rise USA, which is an organization supporting Jeb Bush and his presidential campaign. In recent years, the couple also purchased the home of an American ambassador to China, allegedly to take if off his hands, while he worked abroad.
The family considers these financial investments as necessary for networking and courting relationships with the right people. Brother of Huaidan, Wilson Chen, explained that politicians are always asking for help and that the couple merely provides solutions. He vouched for the legitimacy and legality of the donation and assured the media that attorneys looked over everything carefully before allowing the payment to go through.
Chen does not see this as a support of Republicans, in particular, as the couple has contributed to Democrats as well. In the case of Jeb Bush, he credits the donation to a longstanding respect for the Bush family and their relationship with China. He is certain his brother-in-law and sister do not see the donation as a waste even though Bush will not make it to office this year, as they enjoyed the opportunity to “help a friend.”
Tang and his wife have also helped the Bush family in other ways. For instance, when Tang created SingHaiyi three years ago, he made Neil Bush a nonexecutive chairman, which included a small percentage in the company. This has earned Neil Bush $717,000 since the appointment in 2013.
But some question whether or not the offers of money are not sometimes threats and bribes, rather than invitations for friendship. For instance, Tang allegedly threatened a reporter over the phone, over claims that he was involved in smuggling cases, tax evasion, and other shady businesses in the past.
In fact, The Intercept reported that Tang was willing to pay $200,000 to the reporter to preserve his good name and reputation. He then referred to the offer as not a threat or bribe, but an offer of ‘friendship’.
In spite of Chen and Tang’s best efforts to ‘support friends’ and preserve their reputation, the rumors surrounding their business and character leaves many people suspicious of their real agenda.
It may take more ethical PR strategies to move things in the right direction, as the Chinese practice of backing requests and offers with money does not always translate well in other cultures.