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Gov. Bush Denies Election Allegation

July 17, 2001|LISA GETTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Florida Democratic Party suggested Monday that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his staff violated state law when they made phone calls to the George W. Bush campaign during the 36-day presidential recount.

In a harsh letter hand-delivered to the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe asked Jeb Bush to "provide the people of Florida with a full accounting of your office's actions."

The letter followed a report in The Times that documented 95 calls from Jeb Bush's office to the campaign and its advisors, lawyers and staffers in November and December--even though the governor had directed his staff to spend its time on government business and vowed he would do the same.

"All along he has denied that he had any involvement in the campaign post-election, and it's clear that isn't the case," Poe said in an interview. "If he lied to us then, is there more to be uncovered now?"

Jeb Bush's communication director, Katie Baur, dismissed the letter as partisan politics. "It is always painful to lose an election," she said. "But everyone, excluding the national media and die-hard liberals, is ready to move on."

Poe wrote to Bush that it was "undoubtedly troubling" to Floridians to learn about the phone calls, which were made after the governor had recused himself from any official role in the recount.

Bush and key members of his staff reimbursed the state treasury for some of the calls after The Times sought access to the phone bills. "Your decision to belatedly pay for the calls raises more questions than it answers," Poe wrote to the governor.

"Did the Governor or his staff illegally work on the George W. Bush campaign on state time? Did the Governor and his staff illegally use state equipment to benefit the George W. Bush campaign? Why did you wait until the calls were uncovered by the media to reimburse the state for phones calls made to the George W. Bush campaign?"

In an e-mail to The Times last week, Jeb Bush said he had "no clue what these calls were about."

The Times traced 10 calls to an office number used primarily by Jeb Bush, including one call to a private line in George W. Bush's gubernatorial office in Austin, Texas. One call went to Karl Rove, his brother's campaign strategist. Others went to cell phones assigned to Bush campaign staffers.

Poe also asked Jeb Bush to look into a report in The New York Times that aides to Secretary of State Katherine Harris erased work done on computers in her office during the recount.

"Floridians are prepared to move on, but your office and the office of Secretary Harris appears to have hidden important facts from them," Poe wrote the governor. "Full disclosure on your part and on the part of Secretary Harris is long overdue."

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