Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was criticized by the public interest group Common Cause for flying on planes owned by bankrupt health care finance company National Century Financial Enterprises Inc. during his successful re-election bid.
President Bush's brother took at least six flights on National Century's corporate planes between March and September, state campaign finance records show. His campaign paid the company $1,719 for six flights, an average of $286 per flight.
The company also lent its planes to the Florida Republican Party at least eight times between February and September, campaign finance records show. The flights were valued at $22,000.
"I don't think the people of Florida want their politicians ferried around by corporate interests," said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause in Florida. "They know that there's some payback or return expected, or, at the very least, it gives corporate interests access to the governor's office."
Officials in Bush's office and the Florida Republican Party did not return phone calls seeking comment.
National Century is under state and federal investigation and is the target of civil lawsuits after its bankruptcy filing Nov. 18. At least six health care providers that relied on National Century for financing, including the parent of Greater Southeast Community Hospital in the District, also have sought bankruptcy protection.
The company, which buys medical bills from health care providers and bundles them into bonds, owed bond investors more than $4 billion, according to the bankruptcy filing.
FBI agents started searching National Century's headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, on Nov. 16 and seized documents.
It is common for politicians to take flights aboard corporate planes. Jeb Bush this year paid at least $53,000 in travel-related expenses to companies including Verizon Communications Inc. and Hilton Enterprises Inc.
National Century's former chief executive, Lance K. Poulsen, his wife, Barbara, and the company gave at least $2,000 to Bush's campaign, finance records show. The couple also raised funds for Bush at their $1.1 million waterfront estate, the Miami Herald reported.
Bush's campaign paid Barbara L. Poulsen $4,400 in expenses for an October event at the Poulsens' home. Bush told the Herald that he has only met Poulsen twice, both times at fundraisers.
Poulsen has said that neither he nor the company did anything wrong. The company has been named in at least 44 civil lawsuits. While some have been settled, suits alleging fraud, securities-law violations, breach of contract and racketeering are pending in Florida, Ohio and at least seven other states.
National Century also is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Louisville.