Tallahassee. . . Even as Governor Jeb Bush proclaims March 2000 “Audubon Month” in Florida, an upper-level staff member in his own Department of Community Affairs is linked to a scheme to spy on the conservation group’s private E-mail listserve, according to internal documents released today by Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Florida PEER).
An E-mail message to industry trade group officials from the Florida Home Builders of America’s (FHBA) Political Affairs Director passed on secretly-obtained information from the Florida Audubon Society and 1000 Friends of Florida’ regarding the groups’ campaign strategy for Florida’s Growth Management Act. In the E-mail, FHBA Director commented that he “receive[s] all Audubon Society news via there [sic] E-mail subscription list-although they do not realize that. Let’s keep it that way.”
The campaign strategy had originally been sent to volunteers to discuss DCA’s survey on Growth Management policy. The survey solicited opinions on the future of development within the state. Audubon and FHBA have traditionally taken opposing sides in this debate.
The next day another FHBA official, the Director of Government Affairs, forwarded the intercepted E-mail to DCA’s own general counsel, stating that the Audubon strategy was in reference to “our conversation last night.”
“What is this, ‘The Spy Who Shagged Florida?’ DCA has a funny way of saluting Florida’s environmental groups,” commented Florida PEER General Counsel Steve Medina. “The chummy tone of these e-mails suggest that FHBA is confident that their secrets are safe with DCA.”
Last week Audubon of Florida announced that Governor Bush and his Cabinet would declare March, 2000 to be “Audubon Month” in the state to commemorate the Organization’s “100 years of leadership in protecting and conserving natural resources in Florida.”