MEMO: Jeb Bush Hypocrisy on Email Disclosure

To: Brad Woodhouse, President American Bridge
From: Steven D’Amico, Research Director; Senior Advisor, American Bridge
Date: 3/4/14
Subject: Jeb Bush Hypocrisy on Email Disclosure

Earlier this week, Jeb Bush attempted to capitalize on the recent email controversy by tweeting “Transparency matters. Unclassified @HillaryClinton emails should be released. You can see mine, here jebbushemails.com.” Bush’s attempt to score quick political points exposes him to a powerful hypocrisy attack.  As governor, Bush used private emails; thus far he has not disclosed them all. There is even early media speculation that Bush’s actions may have skirted Florida law.

Key Points:

  • Bush used a personal email address as governor, and there are messages missing. As the Washington Post reporters, “Bush used his personal email address, jeb@jeb.org, to conduct official, political, and personal business…” but Bush’s email disclosure website (which was already public and available at the Florida state archives) lacks many key messages, including any messages between Jeb Bush and his brother, then-President George W. Bush.
  • Media accounts establish that Bush, not the State of Florida, decided which private emails to disclose – apparently nothing would have stopped the Bush team from selectively leaving out politically problematic emails. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, “The Bush files, though enormous, are not complete” because they lacked “emails the governor deemed not relevant to the public record.” In other words, Bush selected what was “relevant” or not for the public record, not civil servants.
  • The numbers do not add up. In 2007 Bush claimed he received 2.5 million emails on his public accounts, and 550,000 emails on his private accounts (Source, Naples Daily News, 7/12/07). Bush’s “disclosure” only contains a total of 250,000 emails. (Source, New York Times, 2/9/15)
  • There are media reports that Bush only recently “completed” handing over emails, despite leaving office eight years ago, potentially violating the law. A Bloomberg politics reporter Michael Bender tweeted today that “FL law requires govs to turn over emails after leaving office. Jeb didn’t finish turning over emails until last year.” He further tweeted that “Bush may not have complied with FL law until considering a presidential campaign. 119.021(4)(a).” That statute requires that “Whoever has custody of any public records shall deliver [them], at the expiration of his or her term of office…” American Bridge researchers submitted a records request today in an effort to confirm or disconfirm the allegation.
  • Media reports indicate Bush also housed his private emails on a personally owned email server. Today, MSNBC political correspondent Kaise Hunt tweeted that “Jeb Bush owns the server that hosts his personal email, his spokeswoman says.”

Bush Conducted Public Business Over Private Email; Hand Selected Which To Turn Over To Archive

Tampa Bay Times: Bush Conducted All His Communication On His Private Jeb@Jeb.Org Account; Hand-Selected Which To Turn Over To The State Archive. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “The former governor conducted all his communication on his private Jeb@jeb.org account and turned over the hand-selected batch to the state archives when he left office. Absent from the stash are emails the governor deemed not relevant to the public record: those relating to politics, fundraising and personal matters while he was governor. Compared to Scott, however, who rarely communicates by email, the contrast is stark.’ [Tampa Bay Times, 1/3/15]

Tampa Bay Times: Bush Released Private Emails Used For State Business; Files “Are Not Complete.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, “The files released from the state archive resulted in a stream of positive national press for the former governor — ‘Jeb Bush’s emails depict a hands-on governor,’ the Washington Post proclaimed. ‘Jeb answered immigrant pleas,’ the Hill wrote. Polls now show that if Bush announces, he will be considered the front-runner. The Bush files, though enormous, are not complete, however.” [Tampa Bay Times, 1/3/15]

As Governor, Jeb Bush Had Three Email Accounts, Including Jeb@Jeb.Org; According to the Washington Post, “In three follow-up e-mails (which Bush also answers promptly), the governor reveals: He has three e-mail accounts, receives 200 to 300 a day onJeb@Jeb.org and reads most of them. He guesses that 25 percent of the e-mails come from colleagues, 50 percent from constituents, 10 percent from family and friends and 15 percent from junk mail and list mail. The risk, he says, is in relying too much on e-mail, at the expense of face-to-face nuance. ‘There is always [the] threat of invading family time!’ he writes.” [The Washington Post, 2/21/03]

  • Bush Continued To Use The Private Jeb@Jeb.Org Email After Leaving The Governorship [Email from Jeb Bush To Matt Castner, 6/5/08]
  • Bush Estimated 25 Percent Of Email Traffic Came From Colleagues. According to the Washington Post “In three follow-up e-mails (which Bush also answers promptly), the governor reveals: He has three e-mail accounts, receives 200 to 300 a day onJeb@Jeb.org and reads most of them. He guesses that 25 percent of the e-mails come from colleagues, 50 percent from constituents, 10 percent from family and friends and 15 percent from junk mail and list mail. The risk, he says, is in relying too much on e-mail, at the expense of face-to-face nuance. ‘There is always [the] threat of invading family time!’ he writes.” [The Washington Post, 2/21/03]

Bush Email Totals Do Not Add Up

In 2007 And 2008, Jeb Bush Said He Received 550,000 E-Mails On His Private Account And 2.5 Million E-Mails On His Public Account While Governor

Jeb Bush Said “I Received 550,000 Personal E-Mails When I Was Governor.” According to Esquire, “This BlackBerry was in the portrait done when I left office. It was a symbol of how I worked. I received 550,000 personal e-mails when I was governor.” [Esquire, 12/22/08]

Jeb Bush Said He Got 550,000 E-Mails On His Private Account During His Eight Years As Governor. According to the Naples Daily News, “Jeb Bush learned plenty during his eight years as Florida governor, he told a crowd at a United Christian Giving fundraiser in Fort Myers on Thursday. The president’s little brother and former president’s son took few partisan shots, mostly entertaining the crowd with stories from ‘Mount Tallahassee.’ […] Bush said he got 550,000 e-mails on his private account and another 2.5 million on his public account during his eight years as governor. That helped him stay in touch with the people of the state even though the capital is far removed geographically from most of the population.” [Naples Daily News, 7/12/07]

Jeb Bush Said He Got 2.5 Million E-Mails On His Public Account During His Eight Years As Governor. According to the Naples Daily News, “Jeb Bush learned plenty during his eight years as Florida governor, he told a crowd at a United Christian Giving fundraiser in Fort Myers on Thursday. The president’s little brother and former president’s son took few partisan shots, mostly entertaining the crowd with stories from ‘Mount Tallahassee.’ […] Bush said he got 550,000 e-mails on his private account and another 2.5 million on his public account during his eight years as governor. That helped him stay in touch with the people of the state even though the capital is far removed geographically from most of the population.” [Naples Daily News, 7/12/07]

In 2015, Bush Said He Would Release 250,000 E-Mails From His Time As Governor

Jeb Bush Said He Would Launch A Website On Which He Will Make Available About 250,000 E-Mails From His Time As Governor. According to the New York Times, “Jeb Bush said he would launch a website on Tuesday on which he will make available about 250,000 emails from his time as governor of Florida, as well as the first chapter of an e-book about his administration. The emails, which were obtained by a number of news media organizations through a public records request in December, show Mr. Bush’s style in communicating with both his staff and his constituents.” [New York Times, 2/9/15]

Jeb Bush Said He Will Release 250,000 Emails From His Two Terms In Office. According to CNN, “Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on Sunday he will release 250,000 emails from his two terms in office and write an eBook outlining his governing philosophy. The moves have set the political sphere atwitter with speculation he’s closer than ever to deciding to run for president in 2016. In what appears to be a move of classic political procedure — getting ahead of the opposition — Bush told WPLG-TV that his intention is to promote transparency.” [CNN, 12/31/14]

Press Speculation On Bush Email Release Delay

Michael Bender: Jeb Bush Did Not Finish Turning Over Emails Until 2014 Even Though Florida Law Required Governors To Turn over Emails After Leaving Office. According to a tweet from Bloomberg political reporter Michael C. Bender, “Re: 2016er emails… FL law requires govs to turn over emails after leaving office. Jeb didn’t finish turning over emails until last year.” [Michael C. Bender Twitter Account, 3/3/15]

Michael Bender: Jeb Bush May Have Not Complied With Florida Law 119.021(4)(a) Until Considering A Presidential Campaign. According to a tweet from Bloomberg political reporter Michael C. Bender, “Put another way, Bush may not have complied with FL law until considering a presidential campaign. 119.021(4)(a): http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0100-0199/0119/Sections/0119.021.html …” [Michael C. Bender Twitter Account, 3/3/15]