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How Ted Cruz’s best crony drew him into Jamaican politics and business


David Panton, left, with Ted Cruz while they were students during Princeton University. (Daedre Levine)

— The desirous immature organisation sat for hours during a grill here to map out skeleton for a business try that could make them millions.

In a organisation that enclosed 3 Jamaican entrepreneurs, one member seemed out of place — a 27-year-old former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk of Cuban skirmish who was visiting from Washington.

Ted Cruz had been invited by his roommate from Princeton and Harvard Law, David Panton, who was fervent for a organisation to win a rights to control a new Caribbean-focused investment craving launched by one of a island’s many distinguished executives.

The suspicion was modeled after U.S. private equity companies that finished fortunes by regulating financier dollars to reconstitute underperforming companies. The Caribbean judgment came with a spin — a financier dollars would be drawn in partial from governments, including from a United States, leveraging supports dictated to boost a building world.

It was an peculiar fit for Cruz, who as early as high propagandize and college voiced a clever faith in singular government. But a devise reason intensity for vast profits. And Cruz was welcomed by Panton’s associate Jamaican partners as a learned adjudicator good matched to assistance file their representation for handling a new firm.

“A good devil’s advocate,” pronounced Jeffrey Hall, one of a partners during a meeting.

With Cruz’s help, they won a right to control what they hoped would be a $150 million fund. The firm, founded in 1998, mislaid a agreement within 5 years, in partial since of a brawl over an investment decision, and was shortly shuttered.

Nevertheless, it supposing a neat sum for Cruz. He primarily pitched in $6,000 for start-up costs and exited a partnership shortly before it disintegrated with a payout of $25,000, and a guarantee of an additional $75,000 to come later, according to Panton.

The partial is one partial of an surprising section in Cruz’s life — a incursion into Jamaican multitude and politics amid his differently candid arise from a Ivy League to desired clerkships to a U.S. Senate and, now, a tip tier of a Republican presidential field.

At a heart of it all was Cruz’s prolonged and fast bond with Panton. The dual college buddies had any been unfailing for high-profile success, a Canadian-born Cruz as a inherent counsel in a United States and Panton, son of distinguished Jamaican parents, as a intensity primary apportion of his internal country.

When their business dissolved in 2003, Panton seemed to event — by a really open divorce from a former Miss World and a intrigue with a former Miss Universe that supposing publication provender conflicting a Caribbean. Panton has pronounced that Cruz supposing romantic support by some of those formidable times.

Cruz’s faithfulness over many years to Panton, who he has pronounced is “like a brother,” shows a conflicting side of a politician who has grown a repute for being abrasive, even unlikable. Panton, in turn, has been one of Cruz’s many eager domestic supporters, assisting launch a initial super PAC subsidy a senator’s White House bid.

Cruz declined to be interviewed for this article, and a discuss orator did not respond to minute created questions. Panton resolved to answer questions usually around email.


Panton and Cruz during college. (Daedre Levine)

The dual were teenagers when they initial met, reserved to live in a same beginner dorm during Princeton. They were an “unlikely couple,” Panton pronounced final year to a radio hire in Atlanta, where he now lives. Cruz was a deeply regressive Hispanic from a bad credentials while Panton, who is black, hailed from a tip membrane of Jamaican society, where his father ran one of a island’s largest companies.

“Coming from a tiny propagandize in a tiny city in Jamaica, we was immature and felt both academically and culturally overwhelmed,” Panton told The Washington Post. “Ted was greatly pleasing and accessible and voiced genuine seductiveness in my background.”

Cruz and Panton common a adore of a good justification and motionless together to join Princeton’s rival discuss team, he said. Some classmates were confused by a attribute between dual people with clearly conflicting personalities. Panton, with his lilting Jamaican accent, exuded attract and finished friends easily. Cruz was combative, grown few friendships and warranted some lifelong enemies.

“You possibly didn’t know Ted Cruz, we hated him, or we were David Panton,” pronounced Craig Mazin, who was Cruz’s freshman-year roommate before Cruz left midyear to room with Panton. Mazin has been outspoken about his dislike of Cruz.

Panton pronounced that over movies, video games and basketball, he saw another side of Cruz. “I am always astounded and nonplussed by those who pronounced they did not like Ted,” he said.

Panton’s Jamaican home played an critical purpose in a relationship. Panton invited Cruz and Adam Erlich, a crony and associate debater, to revisit his family on a island and get a behind-the-scenes discuss of Jamaica’s many absolute institutions, Erlich said.

They visited a internal batch sell and a newsroom of a island’s largest newspaper, he recalled. They also attended a rough domestic convene for a Jamaica Labour Party, a some-more regressive of a island’s dual vital domestic parties.

As a convene began, Erlich removed that he and Cruz watched in astonishment as their crony chatted receptively with Edward Seaga, who led a JLP for decades and had served as Jamaica’s primary minister.

“People suspicion Dave was going to be a primary apportion of Jamaica and Ted would be an glorious inherent lawyer,” pronounced Stephen Wunker, a Princeton discuss teammate.

In Jamaica, Seaga common that view, observant in an speak that he noticed Panton as a probable inheritor and knew Cruz as Panton’s good crony who could make a shining argument.

“I suspicion David would be an glorious domestic leader,” Seaga pronounced final week in his bureau during a University of a West Indies, surrounded by photographs of him and other universe leaders.

Cruz and Panton remained roommates during Harvard Law School, until Panton left for a Rhodes grant during Oxford University.

Panton returned to Harvard shortly after Cruz graduated and was inaugurated to lead a Harvard Law Review, apropos a second black authority — after Barack Obama — to reason a position. When Panton was inaugurated to a post, he after told a Jamaican newspaper, his initial call was not to his relatives though to Cruz, afterwards clerking for a sovereign decider in Virginia.

At a time, Panton and Hall, a Jamaican crony also during Harvard, began deliberating a possibilities of a Caribbean private equity fund.

A identical suspicion was being explored in Jamaica by a distinguished word executive, Dennis Lalor, who envisioned sensitive a region’s economy by luring investment mostly from growth banks saved by area governments.

Panton, Cruz and their partners, desiring a informal private equity organisation could spin vast profits, wanted in.

After their plan session, they successfully won a government agreement from Lalor. Over a prolonged lunch on a veranda of Lalor’s nation estate in Jamaica’s famed Blue Mountains, a partners and a executive looked with confidence during a destiny — and substantially did not predict a sour descending out that would come later.

Cruz was “extremely helpful” in persuading Lalor to move a immature association aboard, Panton said, pursuit Cruz a “smartest, many vital and many impressive authority we know.”

Cruz’s initial investment amounted to a 10 percent interest in a new company, according to corporate annals filed in Jamaica. After a founding, he was a pacifist investor, according to Panton, personification no purpose in using a company.

The other partners zipped behind and onward to bank domicile and elsewhere seeking appropriation and afterwards all over a Caribbean in hunt of places to deposit it.

They shortly bought stakes in a informal liquefied-natural-gas company, a coffee distributor and a Kingston restaurant.

In 1999, a partners took a play that would after haunt them — shopping a vast interest in a decades-old Kingston steel prolongation association struggling for participation as cheaper products from China flooded a Jamaican market.

The partners attempted to repair a problems by offering off a steel company’s old-line production and sell operations.

Eventually, small was left though a company’s land and buildings, that a partners hoped to sell for a profit. About 400 Jamaicans mislaid their jobs in a years after a equity organisation bought a company, pronounced Neville Scott, who had been a steel company’s arch financial officer.

Panton pronounced a transaction was profitable, many workers were rehired by new owners and all perceived separation pay.

As a business grew, a partners began to concentration on other aspects of their personal and open lives.

Panton was allocated by Seaga to a chair in Jamaica’s unelected Senate. Panton also warranted headlines during home in 1999 for his matrimony to Lisa Hanna, a scion of another tip Jamaican family who had turn a internal luminary after winning a Miss Jamaica manifestation and afterwards being named Miss World.

Cruz gave a toast during a couple’s matrimony accepting during a Manhattan restaurant, earning laughs as he kindly roasted his friend.

Panton returned a preference as best male during Cruz’s 2001 California matrimony to Heidi Nelson, whom Cruz had met while portion as a domestic process confidant for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.

After a election, Cruz took jobs in a Bush administration, though he defended ties to a Jamaican universe of his crony Panton.

On a revisit to Jamaica in 2001, Panton organised for Cruz to offer as a guest orator during a assembly of Generation 2000, a wing of a JLP domestic classification Panton had helped found for immature professionals.


A 2001 book of a Jamaica Gleaner shows Panton and Cruz with domestic personality Edward Seaga, left. (Rosalind Helderman/The Washington Post)

In an essay headlined “Tips from strategist for JLP,” a Jamaica Gleaner, a country’s largest newspaper, described how Cruz counseled a celebration to adopt American discuss innovations, such as a use of domestic consultants and heated summary discipline, to win a domestic majority.

“Anytime you’re communicating with a open in a domestic arena, we should have a message, and we should be focused on that message,” Cruz told a group, according to a paper.

As an example, Cruz pronounced that if asked “Are we a criminal?” that a politician should equivocate a response “I am not a criminal,” an answer that would make for a good headline. The politician should instead answer, simply, “No,” Cruz advised.

Around a same time, Cruz attended a Kingston christening of Panton’s initial son, where he and his Jamaican business partners were all named godfathers of a boy.

Hall, one of a 4 business partners, removed that Cruz was quite endangered that a day go good for his friend.

“We were really wakeful of a need to control ourselves as grown-ups,” Hall said. “He was a one saying: ‘You contingency be purify shaven. You contingency be on time.’ ”

After a church service, Cruz and his business partners resolved a day with an greatly rival diversion of Monopoly, Hall said.

But problems were starting to emerge for a company.

According to Lalor and dual of his business associates, a partners were carrying difficulty anticipating companies in a segment with strong-enough financial controls to hoop a vast distillate of outward capital.

What’s more, Lalor pronounced he was dissapoint when he was not consulted in allege of a squeeze of a metal-products company. He pronounced a 4 partners, in their initial pitch, had betrothed to be pure in their dealings.

“That was shocking,” Lalor said. “It was a probity of it. The subsequent thing we knew it was on a books. . . . It was Integrity 101.”

Panton pronounced Lalor’s claim about a steel association investment was “surprising to me.” He pronounced a investment was finished “entirely appropriately” and called Lalor’s complaints about a miss of discussion “disingenuous.” Panton pronounced he and his partners operated their association with a “highest levels of integrity,” that it had a clever record of investment and that Lalor’s complaints were “insincere, fake and unacceptable.”

In 2002, Panton changed to buy out his 3 partners, including Cruz. Panton pronounced he believed a company’s position would be softened by carrying one owner. Panton combined that Cruz wanted to deprive since his wife, Heidi, had taken a pursuit during a Treasury Department with slip of ubiquitous trade.

For Cruz’s 10 percent share in a company, Panton resolved to compensate $25,000 immediately with an IOU for $75,000. Panton pronounced Cruz perceived no other income from a company.

The promissory note would after nag Cruz when Time magazine, that initial reported some aspects of his Caribbean investment, suggested in 2013 that he had unsuccessful to embody a item on dual years of Senate ethics forms. Cruz pronounced it was an slip and nice a forms. Cruz has never cashed in a note, though Panton has pronounced he stands prepared to compensate if asked.

Lalor, who pronounced Panton’s solitary tenure disregarded a strange terms of a company’s contract, changed to disjoin it immediately.

The finish of a agreement was a blow to Panton’s company. Without a contract, a annual guaranteed government fees and a intensity for a high share of increase disappeared.

Panton described a fortitude as a “win-win,” observant Lalor bought him out while a association was on an upswing, clearing a approach for him to lapse to a United States. He pronounced he stays unapproachable of what he and Cruz achieved in a few brief years.

“Ted invested in a start-up association with 0 income and 0 profits, with desirous skeleton to do something that no one else had finished before,” Panton wrote.

Panton took a pursuit during a $1.4 billion private equity organisation in Atlanta in 2004, not prolonged after Cruz was allocated barrister ubiquitous of Texas, a pursuit in that he would pull notice from regressive leaders.

Panton pronounced he and partners bought a Atlanta-based organisation 3 years later. He became an accessory highbrow during Emory University’s business school, assimilated a house of an Episcopal propagandize and became authority of a Jamaica Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta.

But Panton’s personal life was rocky. After Panton’s matrimony ended, Cruz offering his support during a unpleasant and really open control battle, Panton said. “As a good friend, Ted has always been kind, courteous and caring,” Panton said.

When he won control of his son in Atlanta, Panton said, a initial outing he took with a child was to Texas to see “Uncle Ted” and Heidi.

As Cruz has risen, Panton has been there to hearten him on.

He gave a authorised limit concession of $5,000 to Cruz’s 2012 U.S. Senate campaign. And on a night of Cruz’s election, Panton stood on a theatre only behind him.


Ted Cruz binds his daughter Catherine after winning a runoff choosing for a GOP assignment for a U.S. Senate chair from Texas in Jul 2012. Panton is behind him to a left. (Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle around AP)

When Cruz began to anticipate a presidential run, Panton was again a manifest presence, assisting to launch a pro-Cruz super PAC called Stand for Principle.

Organizers primarily likely a PAC would lift $50­ million, indicating to Panton’s purpose as justification of a group’s seriousness. That never happened; a classification was eclipsed by a collection of other super PACs that have lifted tens of millions of dollars to accelerate Cruz’s campaign.

Federal Election Commission annals uncover that Panton wrote a check for $100,000 in Nov 2014 to his PAC — about a third of a group’s altogether proceeds.

In early 2015, Panton’s father became ill with cancer. Like Cruz’s father, Keith Panton was a pastor, and Cruz and a comparison Panton had turn close.

On Feb. 18, a day when Cruz participated in a news discussion warning a Obama administration not to ensue with a immigration plans, Cruz and his mother took time to call a sanatorium room where a comparison Panton lay dying.

“I will never forget my father’s greeting when we told him that Ted wanted to speak to him,” Panton recalled. “Frail and weak, his eyes grew far-reaching and he beamed as we gave him a telephone.”

“It was sadly a really final time we saw my father smile,” Panton said.

Franklin McKnight in Kingston and Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.

Article source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-ted-cruzs-best-friend-drew-him-into-jamaican-politics-and-business/2016/01/22/5bc43d90-bade-11e5-829c-26ffb874a18d_story.html

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