Jeb Bush releases emails, some with personal information of Florida residents

In first chapter of ebook, Jeb Bush highlights his first months as Florida governor

In an effort to show transparency as he actively explores a presidential run, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday released eight years of emails from his time in office. But some of the emails were more transparent than intended.

At least two emails released included personal information of the constituents he corresponded with, including home addresses and Social Security numbers.

Bush’s spokeswoman said in an email that aides had redacted personal information from those emails and they were doing an electronic search of the files to make sure there were no additional emails containing personal information.

The release of tens of thousands of emails on a website created by Bush came on the same day he released the first chapter of an ebook that will curate his time as Florida’s governor.

It was not the public’s first view at the material. The emails had been circulated previously – several news organizations, including The Times, have had access to the redacted emails released under Florida’s open-records laws. A Democratic group had also posted them on its website.

Bush's decision to host the emails on his own site was seen by some as an attempt to bolster an image of openness as he prepares for a formal announcement.

"He releases this on a website and says, 'Hey look here – I’m transparent,'" said Susan MacManus, a professor of political science at the University of South Florida. "At a time when there’s a public distrust with the government and politicians, he’s offering up the documents for anyone to see."

MacManus, a longtime follower of Florida politics, said the move fell in line with Bush’s longtime “tech persona.”

“His official portrait at the Capitol in Tallahassee shows him with a Blackberry,” MacManus said.

On the homepage of the site, Bush wrote of the emails: “Some are funny; some are serious; some I wrote in frustration.”

“You can read them and make up your own mind,” he wrote.

The chapter of his ebook released Tuesday covers his first month running the state of Florida.

Bush writes that in January 1999 he felt that "answering emails" from constituents was sometimes like taking a "pop quiz."

In exchanges with constituents, Bush fielded an array of requests and questions. One correspondent wanted money for a crisis center, another asked him to fix the problems that tractor trailers were causing after being forbidden from traveling in the left lane of Interstate 75.

"I am Jeb. You can write Secretary Barry at the DOT in Tallahassee," Bush curtly responds to the inquiry about highway traffic, directing the constituent to speak with the head of the Department of Transportation.

The ebook includes both email exchanges and Bush’s commentary on the interactions. He writes about the "numerous emails" he received on Ward Connerly, an African American from California who led a ballot initiative to get rid of affirmative action.

One constituent assailed Bush for giving the "cold shoulder" to Connerly. 

"I did not give Mr. Connerly the cold shoulder. Unlike others in Tallahassee, I met with him and was respectful of him," Bush wrote in the Jan. 31, 1999, email exchange. "I believe that the issue of discrimination can and should be dealt with. … I will do my part as governor to fight against it."

An issue that did not arise in his first month as governor was immigration, which is likely to be the focus of broad discussion should he run for president. 

Bush’s calls for changes to the nation’s immigration policies is contrary to the position taken by other likely Republican candidates. Bush, whose wife was born in Mexico, has said immigrants who come to the country illegally do so as an "act of love" for their families.

“We need to keep open our country to people fleeing repression,” he wrote in emails published last month by The Times. “We need to deal with the millions that are here illegally but aren't leaving. It is a big task but we need to do it. It should be done without the emotion of hatred and fear.”

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