Jeb Bush e-mail dump: Did it backfire?

In the rush to publish eight years of e-mails from Jeb Bush's tenure as Florida governor 'in the spirit of transparency,' Bush staff unwittingly also released constituents' sensitive information.

Bill Cotterell/Reuters
Republican Jeb Bush, considered a front-runner in the crowded field of Republican presidential prospects, speaks at a fund-raising luncheon in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday. Bush on Tuesday released emails from his time as Florida governor ahead of a visit to the state capital to raise money and showcase education reforms he started in an effort to burnish his credentials as he eyes a presidential bid.

Earlier this week Jeb Bush released a big pile of e-mails from his time as Florida governor, as well as an e-book that uses some of those missives to stitch together a narrative of his first days in office.

As we said Tuesday the almost-certain 2016 presidential candidate appears to want to frame his image as a thoughtful leader who uses the latest technology to engage with voters. (Or at least the latest technology in 1999. Teens may be shocked to hear that Snapchat wasn’t available then, and that Mr. Bush used a Blackberry for much of his communication.)

Also, this stuff was going to come out anyway due to Florida state sunshine laws and the eagerness of journalists and opposition researchers to dig through Bush’s gubernatorial records. So why not get it out there?

That’s logical reasoning. And a lot of the e-mails indeed show Bush working on the smallest details raised by his constituents, from lapsed real estate licenses to the state of Florida manatees to marauding tractors-trailers roaring along Interstate 75.

But there was a glitch: In their rush to get the e-mails published, Bush’s staff apparently did not notice that some of the thousands and thousands of e-mails contained names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and even Social Security numbers for average Floridians.

As The Verge pointed out, the cache also contained sensitive personal stories from some folks who were asking their governor for help. None of this was redacted.

“At minimum, the data dump shows a serious ignorance of the volume of sensitive information in the records and a carelessness about their disclosure,” wrote The Verge’s T.C. Sottek.

This may have put a damper on Bush’s attempt to look all modern and computer-hip. Combine it with the sudden resignation of his new tech director for old and insensitive comments on social media about women and African-Americans, and the Bush proto-campaign suddenly looks like it’s still trying to figure out how to boot up its IBM personal computers.

As of Wednesday it appears the Bush staff is on to the personal-info problem and is trying to fix it. After you select a time period of e-mails to read, a new paragraph appears that says they’ve learned there was sensitive data in the raw files.

“We have redacted personal information we have been able to locate,” it says.

Meanwhile, reporters have begun to find interesting stuff in this trove. At Vox they’ve turned up some e-mails that indicate Bush met with then-top GOP lawyers John Yoo and John Roberts during the fateful 2000 Florida recount that boosted George W. Bush into the presidency.

Bush sent e-mails thanking both for speaking with him. Mr. Yoo would go on to become deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Roberts would go on to become chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

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