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Feb 10, 2015 11:58 AM

Bush e-book shows former Florida governor e-mail connections

The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Republican Jeb Bush released a trove of emails from his time as Florida's governor on Tuesday, along with the first chapter of an e-book that chronicles an obsession with his Blackberry.

The release from Bush's political action committee comes as he is spending more time in public ahead of what appears to be an all-but-certain run for president in 2016.

Bush, the son and brother of former Republican presidents, spent January vigorously raising money, and is this month delivering a series of speeches aimed at laying out the themes of his prospective campaign.

In the book chapter, Bush writes that he was seldom without his Blackberry while serving as governor from 1999 to 2007, spending roughly 30 hours per week reading and returning email to staff and Florida residents.

Bush casts himself as being readily accessible, to the point that he freely gave his personal email address to constituents. "As much as I could I emailed back," he writes, describing the experience as "quite humbling" at times, but "always eye opening, and (it) certainly kept me on my toes."

With the book chapter, Bush's political team released thousands of emails sent and received to Bush's personal email account. They do not include emails sent to the governor's official state email address, which was handled by staff and included matters such as official requests and were often forwarded to Bush's personal account for his attention, aides said.

Nor are any paper memos or telephone records included, such as notes taken during budget sessions or the roughly 40,000 calls Bush's office received during the yearslong legislative and court battle over whether to stop life support for Terri Schiavo. The Florida woman had brain damage and died in 2005 after her feeding tube was removed. Schiavo's husband wanted her feeding tube removed, against the wishes of her parents.

Such records are all on file in Tallahassee, along with all email sent to Bush by staff, as part of the complete archival record of Bush's administration, which is open for public inspection. The records posted to Bush's website Tuesday were aimed at showing that Bush was often in touch with constituents and staff.

"The focus of the project is to make them more accessible," Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said.

Bush's e-book and the email is a reminder that he hasn't held elected office in several years. The emails show that he was fighting to improve the state's website, for example, at a time when many of his constituents didn't have access to the Internet.

Democrats have already started to try to cast Bush as an out-of-touch businessman, and Bush's book presents a narrow collection of the emails that portrays him as an engaged and compassionate conservative.

"Jeb's attempt to rebrand himself as a champion for middle class opportunity is as laughable as the idea of Mitt Romney as an anti-poverty crusader," Democratic National Committee spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement. Sams was referring to Romney's brief consideration of a 2016 campaign for president, which he said would have focused on low- and middle-income Americans.

Bush highlights examples in which he paid particular attention to child welfare, education spending and veterans, while focusing on conservative economic priorities such as cutting the number of state employees and cutting taxes.

He also casts himself as someone willing to stand up to the more extreme elements in his party.

He offers one email exchange explaining his decision to block the efforts of a political activist, Ward Connerly, who pushed to end affirmative action in states to address what some called "reverse racism."

"I will do my part as governor to fight against it," Bush wrote of Connerly's efforts, later adding that while he opposes racial quotas, he found Connerly's initiative divisive and said it would make it harder for him to pursue other priorities.


Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Washington.


Follow Thomas Beaumont on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tombeaumont


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