Conservatives in Florida were aghast: State documents said that Gov. Jeb Bush and other overseers of Florida's pension system had shifted retirees' money into a company called Movie Gallery, one of the largest film rental firms in America. Most of the titles were standard comedy and action fare, but a fraction were X-rated titles.

In short, the state of Florida was investing taxpayer money in pornography.

Bush recently released 280,000 emails from his two terms as governor, and buried in the trove are exchanges about the Movie Gallery investment that highlight the tension between Bush’s stance as a firm social conservative and his readiness to align himself with the Republican Party’s pro-businesses sensibilities -- even at the cost of right-wing ideals.

“Have you people lost your minds?” one outraged voter wrote in an email to Bush and the State Board of Administration (SBA), which made the investment. Another angry voter emailed that pornography was “enslaving men and women to its addiction.”

But Bush, then the highest-profile trustee of the board that oversees Florida’s $149 billion pension system, was unmoved by conservatives’ outrage, and maintained the investment. In one of the newly surfaced emails, the SBA’s director told an angry Floridian that the state could not take investment advice from “various constituency groups.” The Bush administration would not let political ideology shape pension decisions, the director explained, saying the state’s pension trustees were “required to act solely in the best interest of the [pension] beneficiaries.”

With right-wing heroes like Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum moving to enter the 2016 presidential race, Bush's backers are working to present the former Florida governor as a reliable conservative. They note that he publicly opposed same-sex marriage, funded crisis pregnancy centers and backed proposals to fund vouchers for private and religious schools.

That characterization, however, was in dispute in 2005, when the American Family Association caught wind of the Bush administration’s decision to purchase more than 47,000 shares of Movie Gallery while the firm made pornography available to its customers.

In a mass email, AFA founder Donald Wildmon touted his group’s new website www.stopmoviegalleryporn.com, and urged the AFA’s 200,000 members to sign a petition and express their anger at Bush for moving $1.3 million of state money into the company.

“Movie Gallery shades hundreds of its stores with ‘back rooms,’ filled with thousands of videos and magazines exhibiting morbid depictions of sex,” Wildmon wrote. “By investing in Movie Gallery stock, the state of Florida is giving its stamp of approval on hard-core porn. Tell the Florida Board of Administration to get out of the porn business by divesting itself of Movie Gallery stock.”

Bush advisers did not respond to International Business Times’ questions about the Movie Gallery investment. A spokesperson for the AFA declined an interview request and did not answer similar questions.

The SBA told IBTimes it held the Movie Gallery shares in an internally managed, passive investment fund that used the Russell 3000 stock index as a benchmark. The state ultimately sold its Movie Gallery shares in 2006 after the company was deleted from the index, SBA spokesman Dennis MacKee said.

Unlike some of his GOP rivals who have spent their out-of-office time promoting social conservative ideology, Bush went on to a lucrative Wall Street career, keeping a comparatively low profile on causes dear to the religious right. But as he has reemerged on the national stage for a 2016 run, his supporters say his time in office proves he can be trusted by the right.

“His record as governor of Florida was not that moderate; it was pretty darn conservative,” former South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Barry Wynn said.

Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist and Republican presidential fundraiser, echoed the sentiment, telling IBTimes that Bush is “militantly pro-life” and is “very, very conservative in his political views and in how he governed.”

To be sure, Bush is not the only potential Republican 2016 contender who has faced scrutiny for his stance on issues related to pornography. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was criticized during the last presidential campaign for having bought and sold between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of Movie Gallery stock in the past. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who touts his strict conservative morals, took heat during the 2012 campaign for accepting $12,000 in contributions as a senator from a cable company that decided to make hard-core pornography available on pay-per-view to its subscribers.

But neither Perry nor Santorum was snubbed by the Values Voter Summit last September in the way Bush was. At that gathering of social conservatives, only Bush was denied a speaking slot, illustrating the continuing strains between the Florida governor and the religious right.

Explaining the snub, the organizer of the event, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, said Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were “not on the top of the list in terms of what they are doing right now and whether or not it was relevant to the values voters and who they want to hear from.”