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Early voting for Jeb Bush as Wall Street bucks flow to GOP contender

Jeb Bush kicks off presidential campaign

Republican candidate Jeb Bush only just formally launched his presidential bid in Miami, but his campaign has already attracted a robust roster of Wall Street donors.

Supporters from the financial community include private equity executives, hedge fund managers, bankers and more, based on a CNBC analysis of fundraising gala invitations and media reports. A few of these marquee names were willing to sing Bush's praises publicly.

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"He's a deeply substantive, compassionate person who is a proven problem solver," said Kenneth Juster, a managing director at New York-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Juster is a part-time policy advisor to the Bush campaign, and recently traveled with the candidate to Europe.

Others in the private equity community to support Bush include Kolberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) executives Henry Kravis, Alex Navab, Ken Mehlman and Zack Pack; David Knower, chief operating officer of a Cerberus Capital Management unit in Germany; Marc Spilker, until last year the president of Apollo Global Management; Brad Freeman of Freeman Spogli; Andrew Saul of Saul Partners; Anthony de Nicola of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe; and Barry Volpert of Crestview Partners.

From hedge funds and other so-called alternative investors, there's Scott Kapnick, CEO of JPMorgan Chase investment unit Highbridge Capital Management; Sander Gerber of Hudson Bay Capital Management; Neuberger Berman Group CEO George Walker (a Bush cousin); and Richard Kayne of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors.

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And from banking there's Timothy O'Hara, head of investment banking for equities at Credit Suisse; Jeffrey Bunzel, head of equity capital markets for the Americas at Deutsche Bank; former Barclays CEO and now Africa investor Bob Diamond; former BNY-Mellon executive John Meserve; and Bob Foresman, CEO of Barclays Russia.

Many of these individuals either declined to comment to CNBC, or did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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"I've met with all the other candidates, and Jeb has the greatest depth of knowledge on policy and execution—by far," said one hedge fund manager who asked to remain nameless.

The person cited several reasons for his backing Bush's candidacy that included being the best person to beat Hillary Clinton; his reduction of taxes and the size of government as governor of Florida; and his ability to reach multicultural voters, given his embrace of Hispanic culture.

Part of the financial community's support for Bush appears to be in response to Wall Street bashing by other politicians.

"He understands the positive role that the financial community plays in the economy," Juster of Warburg Pincus said. "It is distressing that some people paint all of Wall Street as somehow hurting America."

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As the son and brother of two former presidents ramps up his campaign, more support is expected.

A key Bush fundraising vehicle, a so-called super political action committee named Right to Rise, initially targeted $100 million from donors. However, the amount the PAC actually raised may have fall short, according to a recent Washington Post report. Bush has yet to release any data on his fundraising efforts.

Many financial donors will be on hand at a fundraising breakfast in New York on June 24. Tickets require as much as $27,000 in combined fundraising, according to an invite obtained by the Washington Post.

A spokesman for the Bush campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

"I think Jeb will have widespread support from the investment community," said Fred Malek, founder of investment firm Thayer Lodging and the financial chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Given that position, Malek has not committed to any candidate. Still, he has hosted events this year for Jeb Bush and fellow Republican—Wisconsin governor Scott Walker—at his home in McLean, Virginia that allowed other potential donors to get to know them (no money was given to attend the events, according to Malek).

"He has a proven record as a governor," Malek told CNBC.

"A lot of candidates can talk the talk, but he's demonstrated that he can walk the walk as well, and I think that's widely admired and appreciated not only on Wall Street but by the whole business community," he added.

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