Jeb Bush is buying television time in a way that circumvents the law and denies matching money to Gov. Lawton Chiles, the Chiles campaign charged Thursday.
Bush's campaign responded that the charge is another attempt to divert attention from the issues.
"Every day they're searching for something that's not there," said Bush campaign manager Sally Harrell.
Chiles' deputy treasurer, Chuck Wolfe, said Bush has bought $890,000 worth of air time through political consultant National Media. State law requires that candidates buy air time with checks drawn from their campaign account.
Ordinarily, who buys the time is no big deal, and media consultants often do. But in this case, Bush could avoid listing an expense in his campaign account that would trigger matching money for Chiles.
"We're buying some direct from the stations and some through National Media, just the way we've always done it," Harrell said.
Buying through the consultant, she said, is no attempt to conceal expenditures.
"That's absurd," she said. "We wire money to National Media and they pay stations all across Florida."
Chiles agreed to limit his campaign spending to $5-million and is taking matching money from the state, while Bush opted out of matching money and will exceed the $5-million. He is allowed to do that, but anything he spends over $5-million triggers a matching amount for Chiles.
Wolfe said the amount Bush has paid National Media appears to cover the media buy but not production costs and other expenses.
"The theory is they're using their media company to front the money, then they don't have to put it on their campaign report," he said.