Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush pounced late Monday after news reports revealed that Hillary Rodham Clinton had used a private e-mail account as secretary of state and didn’t routinely turned over her correspondence for government records collection.
“Transparency matters,” Bush wrote on Twitter just hours after the news broke. His message said that Clinton’s “emails should be released” and he added a link to his own Web site, www.JebBushEmails.com.
What Bush didn’t note, however, is that all of the e-mails he has released were already required to be made public under Florida law, and he has no plans to release any beyond that.
As governor, he used his personal e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to conduct official, political and personal business, but the Web site only archives messages related to official business. There are no messages about Bush’s reelection campaign, about his fundraising for the Republican Party of Florida or about political trips outside the state for GOP candidates. There are no messages between Bush and his brother, former president George W. Bush, or his father and mother, or his wife, Columba, and their children.
And aides say there never will be.
“Gov. Bush does not have a plan to release his personal e-mails not related to state business, like where he was planning to have dinner or when his tee times were,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said on Tuesday. She said Bush fully complied with Florida’s open record laws and has handed over all official correspondence to state officials.
Bush still uses the e-mail address and on Monday urged people that he met in Las Vegas at a campaign-style event to e-mail him directly. His son and business partner, Jeb Jr., and several aides also use @jeb.org e-mail accounts.
As the Web site shows, e-mails to Bush ranged from concerns with the Space program’s economic impact on south Florida, to tort reform, to support for Bush’s decision to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo.
Aides and supporters say the Web site helps distinguish Bush from would-be rivals in both parties who have struggles with transparency.
Clinton (D) has sparred with congressional Republicans for years regarding what she knew in the hours after the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Clinton may have violated federal rules by using a personal e-mail account to conduct official State Department business.
Among potential Republican candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has faced investigations into a decision by former aides to order traffic detours at the George Washington Bridge. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has refused to release e-mails from his tenure, but a court-ordered release of some of his e-mails with aides have caused him headaches.
Bush was aware from the start that e-mails would become public records under Florida’s expansive sunshine laws. Writing to several aides on Dec. 1, 1999, Bush moved to conclude a stream of e-mails about vacation time allotted for the governor’s staff, writing that they “might make a newspaper one of these days.” He added, “I suggest that you guys have a verbal conversation about it rather than create a public document. :)”
Bush’s record on transparency as Florida governor was decidedly mixed, said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, a watchdog organization that pushes for enforcement of the state’s open-records laws.
“He actually violated the Constitution on day one,” Petersen told The Washington Post in December, citing Florida’s guaranteed “right of access” to official records and meetings.
The law requires that meetings that include the governor and the leaders of the two legislative chambers be announced in advance and opened to the public. He met with both in his first day in office without public notice.
Bush apologized and pledged to honor public records requests. But Petersen said advocacy groups and media organizations had trouble getting requests for e-mail records provided in electronic and timely way and eventually threatened to sue. After initial resistance and threats, she said, Bush’s administration agreed to comply with requests for more timely delivery of records in their original electronic format.
Petersen said Bush suffered from a prickly sensitivity that overwhelmed his best intentions to lead an open government. She recalled Bush slamming records shut when they revealed politicized operations of government, insulted an appointee or an influential special pleader.
In 2004, Bush did not object when his secretary of state, Kathleen Harris, declined to provide lists of voters purged from the rolls until a lawsuit was filed..
Bush also signed a public records exemption for the autopsy photos and records regarding the death of Dale Earnhardt, the race car driver killed at the Daytona Speedway in 2001. The Earnhardt family and racing officials requested Bush’s help closing the records,which Florida news organizations sought as a way to assess race industry safety.
Aides to Bush defended his record of transparency, saying that from the start of his governorship, any reporter or constituent could have requested copies of his official correspondence and would have eventually received them. The state of Florida continues to process such requests today, they said.
“In 1999, e-mail was less common,” said one aide, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the process. “When he first came in, it wasn’t reluctance or refusal to release messages, it was that they were pushing for a faster release at a time when sifting through e-mail wasn’t as easy.”
Petersen said that “overall Bush wasn’t the worst.” She reserves that category for the state’s current GOP governor, Rick Scott.
“Jeb Bush wasn’t terrible,” she said, “but he certainly wasn’t a champion.”
Original article here.