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NEIL BUSH IS BEWILDERED AND ANGRY BY ATTENTION HE’S GETTING OVER S&L

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"We lived month to month, begged for money from time to time, and our business was relatively dormant," Bush recalls. But he relishes that time in his life.

Like his father, Bush speaks in deliberate, run-on sentences, tipping his head during delivery, jabbing his finger occasionally, laughing an engaging, hiccuppy sort of laugh, displaying near-perfect teeth.

He is comfortable enough in front of a television camera to be a political commentator, which he was, briefly, two years ago at KMGH in Denver.

Lately, however, Bush hasn't been in the spotlight voluntarily.

Bush faces a public disciplinary hearing before federal regulators in September on his role as a director of the bankrupt Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan. Some Democrats are pushing for a special prosecutor to examine the case.

He has been accused of conflict of interest and failure to disclose ties to men who received loans from Silverado, but he says he has done nothing wrong. His father has defended his "honor and integrity" but has promised to stay out of the investigation.

The subject makes Neil Bush angry. While some maintain he played a major role in pushing through suspicious loans while a director of Silverado, he is enraged that Democrats are now making political hay out of his predicament.

"Neil Bush is it for the Democrats. I'm the highest-profile guy they have to shoot at out there," he said in an interview last week.

"As a director of Silverado I acted prudently, I acted responsibly. I acted and took my responsibilities seriously, and I acted with diligence in overseeing the activities of Silverado." He also expresses anger at what he calls "government mismanagement" in the way troubled savings institutions are being sold off.

Neil Bush played his most prominent role on the hot, steamy night of Aug. 17, 1988, at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, when he delivered all of Colorado's delegates to help seal his father's nomination for president.

It was a heady moment for the third of George and Barbara Bush's four sons, and it led to suggestions Neil Bush might have the stuff from which U.S. House or Senate candidates are made. The possibility had him shrugging and smiling and saying "maybe."

His job then, he told reporters, was to help his father's campaign. "I'd hate to be the only son to have lost his home state for his dad."

Dyslexic as a child, Bush practiced reading exercises until he was able to overcome his problem, his brother George recalled. He eventually earned undergraduate and master's degrees in business from Tulane University.

Until a few months ago, Neil and Sharon Bush and their three children lived in a tan brick, two-story home in a friendly, established neighborhood in central Denver.

Former neighbors say they would often pile into the family Volvo for weekend excursions. And they were community oriented, with Neil serving on the Children's Museum board and Sharon co-chairing the 1989 Children's Hospital Gala.

The family moved to a new house, a $550,000 structure on Denver's wealthier, newer, southeast side. "It offers privacy, something that I now thrive on," Bush says.

His downtown office is light and airy, with Western paintings and a clear view to the west, where the Rockies can be seen on most days. His desk carries a name plate, "Mr. Bush," which belonged to his grandfather, Prescott Bush, when he was a U.S. senator from Connecticut.

It is more lavish than he was accustomed to when he was a partner in a fledgling exploration company, JNB Exploration Co.

JNB paid him a salary - he won't say how much - but the business was sold in 1989, and Bush now heads Apex Energy, also an exploration company.

"My business is oil and gas," he said.

Bush says the oil business has been interesting, and he made some profit selling lease-hold interests.

"The only problem is," he recalled with a smile, "even though we kept things going and everything was in pretty good shape in terms of operations - we didn't find any oil.

"It's a pretty high-risk business. But we were successful to the extent we managed to put prospects together and sell them, which is probably why we attracted the partners we did."

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(Additional information)

Son's woes hurting president, 70% in poll say

Most Americans believe Neil Bush's involvement in the case of the failed Silverado savings and loan is damaging to his father, according to a poll published in Newsweek magazine.

Of 756 adults surveyed by the magazine, 70 percent said Bush's activities were damaging to the president, and 81 percent said they thought the thrift scandal should be an important issue in the 1992 presidential election.

Some 78 percent of the respondents said they think the son of a president should be able to engage in any business he wishes, including those that receive federal loan guarantees or deal with the government.

Some 50 percent said federal regulators are unfairly focused on Neil Bush because he is President Bush's son, while 42 percent said they don't consider it unfair.