The former Republican president's speaking schedule could potentially create headaches shortly before the election.
By David A. Kaplan, contributor
FORTUNE — So, let’s pretend you’re Mitt Romney. It’s just a few days before the presidential election next month. It’s an incredibly close race. You’re focused on discussing jobs, tax reform, health care and economic growth. Just what it is that you’re hoping the last Republican in the White House is doing? Since George W. Bush isn’t held in particularly high-standing these days — even in GOP circles — you’re probably hoping that W isn’t even in the country, the better not to cause any possible distractions. You’re in luck — he is going to be traveling!
The not-so-good news is where the 43rd president will be: the Cayman Islands with hedge fund leaders. He’s scheduled to deliver the keynote on the first night of the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit on November 1 and 2. The timing, at best, is hilarious. t worst, it’s potentially awful for Romney. He’s taken political shots for his investments in tax havens like the Caymans and for being the longtime leader at the private-equity firm Bain Capital. If video of Bush’s appearance in front of a big crowd of hedgies and other financial heavies makes it onto TV screens or the Web on the weekend before Election Day, it can’t possibly help Romney. (Remember this?)
The conference comes with lots of industry hype. “The world’s leading institutional investors, CEOs, economists and academics will gather at the world-renowned Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman,” proclaims a release for the conference. “This exclusive, global thought leadership event…will unite some of the greatest minds in the alternative investment industry,” not indicating whether Bush is included therein. But regardless, he’ll be “offering his thoughts on eight years in the Oval Office, the challenges facing our nation in the 21st century, the power of freedom, and the role of faith.”
Speakers from the financial industry will include Harvey Pitt, the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (under Bush), who’s now CEO of the consulting firm Kalorama Partners, as well as representatives of such firms as BlackRock, Clearbrook, Man Group, Permal Group, Deutsche Bank Alternative Fund Services, Credit Suisse, Old Mutual Asset Management, Nomura Corporate Research & Asset Management, Octagon Credit Investors, Millennium Partners, KPMG, Aberdeen Asset Management, Global Fund Exchange, Halcyon Asset Management, Highland Capital Management, PAAMCO, First Quadrant, Charter Bridge Capital Management, TorreyCove Capital Partners, New Silk Route Partners, Silver Creek Capital Management and Morgan Creek Capital Management.
Plus, there are two other keynoters: Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and golfer Greg “The Shark” Norman.
Scheduled topics at the conference: “Investing in a Debt-Fueled World” and “Rewriting the Future.” Also on tap at the Ritz-Carlton (voted “best resort in the Caribbean” three years running by Condé Nast Traveler!): a tennis tournament starring ancient pro stars as Martina Hingis Stefan Edberg. Representatives of the conference did not respond to a Fortune question about Bush’s speaking fee.
Admission to the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit: $4,400, not including airfare or tickets for the tennis tournament. And while individual circumstances of course vary and you should be sure to consult your accountant, we’re pretty sure it’s tax-deductible.