“I was a governor who refused to go along with that establishment,” Bush said.
In his speech in Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday denouncing the influence of lobbyists, Jeb Bush neglected to mention one critical detail: The event was organized by a powerful corporate lobbying group that has helped financially support his White House bid.
Speaking at Florida State University, the former Florida governor derided what he called the capital city’s “comfortable establishment” that leverages lobbying power to unduly shape public policy. “I was a governor who refused to go along with that establishment,” Bush said.
Bush was touting his clean-government credentials at a function organized by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a private lobbying group for the state’s business community. Emails obtained by International Business Times show that Bush’s campaign coordinated the event with the chamber, whose political committee has donated to a super PAC backing Bush’s bid for president.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce spent nearly $200,000 lobbying Florida lawmakers last year, and the group’s political committees have spent roughly $5.6 million to influence state elections since 2013. The chamber also employs a Florida lobbying firm — composed of former government officials — that is a top Bush campaign donor.
David Hart, a chamber lobbyist and former Bush aide, told IBTimes that the event was not arranged by the chamber because it feared that Bush publicly promoting his presidential campaign to the corporate advocacy group might run afoul of federal campaign laws.
“Originally we were planning to host the governor for a speech,” Hart said. “Obviously we worked closely with the governor over the years. But the content of his speech made it — because of federal election rules — made it impossible for us to host such an event.”
A representative of the Bush campaign told IBTimes that “the Florida chamber did not host the event.”
But two Florida State University officials separately told IBTimes that the chamber arranged the event at the public university. The school provided emails exchanged with chamber officials that appear to confirm that the chamber organized the event on behalf of Bush’s campaign, and coordinated with the campaign on the event.