Jeb Bush: Dems Out To 'Destroy' Fla.

Jeb Bush
CBS
Angered by a Democratic phone campaign, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush fired off an e-mail saying supporters of Al Gore were trying to "destroy our state."

Bush's message a week ago prompted his staff to consider compiling a list of tactics being used by Gore's supporters in the battle against George W. Bush, according to the e-mail traffic obtained under the state's Sunshine Law. However, spokeswoman Katie Baur said the governor's office didn't take any further action.

Word filtered in to the governor from a Bush supporter on Nov. 13 that many voters were getting calls that their ballots had been discarded and that they should contact the Florida governor to find out why. In Palm Beach County, 19,000 ballots were disqualified and hundreds of voters said they mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan while trying to vote for Gore.

"Is there any way this can be stopped?" the Bush supporter wrote in an e-mail to the Bush campaign and the Florida governor, the presidential candidate's younger brother. "I keep getting phone" calls "saying 'your vote along with 19,000 others was thrown out.'"

"This is a concerted effort to divide and destroy our state," the governor wrote to Baur, his communications director, at 11 o'clock that night.

According to the e-mail records, Baur alerted the governor's chief of staff, Sally Bradshaw, early the next morning, assuring the governor that "I'm working on this."

"This is obscene. I hope we are getting this to the press," Bradshaw replied to Baur. "Shouldn't we give them a list of all the scare tactics the Gore campaign is using?"

"That is what I am gathering," Baur responded three minutes later.

Asked about the e-mails, Baur said: "I did not take any action whatsoever. As soon as I took a moment to think about it, I realized this would be an action more appropriate for the Republican Party and I didn't give it a further thought after writing that e-mail."

Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said the e-mail exchange "certainly belies the official position that the Florida governor is staying at arm's length from the situation. If he is, it's a pretty short arm."

Baur replied that Bush "wasn't asking anyone to respond or share this information with anyone. He's human. The governor isn't living in a bubble. Who isn't frustrated by what we watch on TV and read in the newspaper?"

Last week, the governor's office told GOP stalwarts at the Republican Governors Association to stop sending computer messages.

"Please remove my e-mail address from your list immediately," Jeb Bush's press secretary, Elizabeth Hirst, wrote to the association. "As you are aware, I work for Governor Jeb Bush who has recused himself from this elections process. I cannot receive these messages or act upon them. Thank you."

Jeb Bush's office had been asked by the governors' association to cal or send strong messages of support as soon as possible to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris who is trying to keep manually re-counted ballots in Democratic counties out of the vote totals.

Separately, another Florida official embroiled in the voting dispute, Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth, released correspondence showing he received unsolicited legal advice from lawyers around the country.

A few faxed letters from citizens to Butterworth were laced with obscenities because the attorney general had issued an advisory opinion saying Palm Beach County had a right to finish its recount. The state's chief elections supervisor had told the county it couldn't finish.