Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was recently called out for her hypocrisy on LGBT issues after the Orlando nightclub shooting, but another scandal has been brewing for years. This time around, Bondi’s ties with Donald Trump — which are rather strong, as she’s seen in the above photo while stumping for him in August — are throwing a spotlight on her 2013 reelection campaign. We previously discussed how Trump quietly paid an IRS fine after violating a tax law by donating $25,000 to Bondi, and he (allegedly) made this donation in exchange for her dropping an fraud investigation into Trump University. The end of that story also included an excuse about Bondi trying to give the contribution back to Trump, who didn’t accept the return. And his campaign explained the donation away as a clerical error.
The full timeline of Trump’s donations to Bondi, and her subsequent abandonment of the fraud investigation, produces even sketchier results. In August 2013, Bondi reportedly (and “personally”) requested a donation from Trump, and several weeks later, her AG office “publicly announced it was deliberating whether to join a multi-state lawsuit proposed by New York’s Democratic attorney general.” In September, Ivanka Trump made a small $500 donation to Bondi’s PAC. A few days later, Bondi’s office announced they were joining the New York efforts to investigate Trump University. In short order, the $25,000 donation check arrived from Trump, who later called Bondi “a fabulous representative of the people.”
This chain of events is notable because of Trump’s repeated boasts about buying political influence. In January 2016, he told an Iowa rally audience, “When I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true.” And during an August 2015 GOP debate, he stated, “When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” He added that money can make politicians “do whatever the hell you want them to do.”
Well, Trump gave even more than $25,000 to Bondi. According to the Huffington Post, Trump held a lavish fundraiser for her at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. The entry price was $3,000 per head, and the event happened in fall 2013. In spring 2014, Donald and Ivanka then dropped another $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, thereby adding more to Bondi’s campaign funds. Needless to say, this doesn’t look good:
All this money created the appearance that Donald Trump was thanking Bondi for halting any further investigation into his failed seminar programs. Trump’s efforts to boost her politically came during and after a period when Bondi was under pressure to pursue allegations that those seminars were defrauding consumers.
The use of Mar-a-Lago alone was a donation of some value. Space at the resort is expensive to rent, and Trump has charged his own presidential campaign roughly $140,000 per event for use of the mansion. In contrast, the Republican Party of Florida paid only $4,855.65 for the Bondi fundraiser, cutting a check on March 25, 2014. It was a “small event on the lawn … featuring snacks and refreshments, attended by about 50 people,” a Bondi campaign staffer told The Huffington Post.
Charging $3,000 per head for “snacks and refreshments” seems like a shoddy deal for attendees, but presumably, these donors could afford the bill. However, Trump’s continued (and apparently successful) courting of Bondi shows him engaging in the same tactics he accuses Hillary Clinton of doing with the Clinton Foundation — which he also donated to in the past. Sure, Trump wasn’t dealing out official State Department meetings, but he was soliciting political favors directly in exchange for money. In the White House, he could accomplish even more of interest to the Trump bottom line.