In an apparent show of solidarity with his West Coast buddy Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also has a staffer who was on the Repug Party’s payroll while serving as Bush’s chief of staff. According to today’s Miami Herald, Denver Stutler, Bush’s chief of staff until July, collected nearly $32,000 in travel, meal and phone expenses from the Hefalump Party while electioneering at the same time he was on the state payroll — a no-no in the Sunshine State just like it is in California.
State records show the total amount of money the Republican Party has reimbursed Stutler is more than the combined totals reimbursed to his two predecessors, Sally Bradshaw and Kathleen Shanahan. Bradshaw, who was campaign manager for Bush in 1998 before becoming his chief of staff, was reimbursed nearly $7,000 the two years she was on the state payroll, while Shanahan received nearly $18,000 in reimbursements during her 2 ½-year stint.
There’s nothing illegal in having the Republican Party reimburse Stutler for expenses. State law, however, requires that state employees do campaign work on their own time. And the issue of how parties spend their money has heated up in recent months because of bookkeeping problems at the Florida Democratic Party under former Chairman Scott Maddox.
Stutler, who became Bush’s chief of staff in October 2003 and was paid as much as $140,000 a year, says his political duties were done on his own time. He said his main goal was to make sure no one could claim he was using taxpayer dollars for political purposes.
If he took a trip that included time spent working on political activities while also doing state business, Stutler would have the party pick up the tab.
”I thought it was appropriate to err on the side of caution,” Stutler said.
Question — why err at all? Oh, yeah, he’s a Republican. But a damned hard-working one:
A check of payroll records shows that Stutler, who worked anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day, often said he spent one or two hours a day on personal business.
One Democratic state legislator, however, expressed skepticism at how Stutler could balance his state job and his political duties.
”He must be a Superman to have that much time off the clock to commit to political activities,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, a Dania Beach Democrat who sponsored legislation this year to extend some of the state restrictions on campaign work done by state employees to local governments. Bush vetoed the bill, saying some of its requirements went too far and imposed excessive restrictions on state employees.
In other words, why should Jebby change a system that’s working so well for the Republican Party?
Jeb to Arnold: a wink and a nod, say no more!