Florida editorial boards are calling for federal investigators to look into Florida Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi's connections with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The calls come in response to news that Bondi choose not to investigate Trump University after soliciting and receiving a donation from him in 2013. Trump was fined $2,500 by the IRS this year for violating the law prohibiting such donations.
Bondi Solicited And Received A Campaign Donation From Donald Trump And Then Decided Not To Investigate Trump University
Wash. Post: Bondi Personally Requested A Campaign Donation From Donald Trump, Then Subsequently Decided Not To Investigate Of Trump U. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump's company said, after it was revealed that Trump's charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida's attorney general," Pam Bondi, according to The Washington Post. As the Post explained, “The sequence began when Bondi herself solicited a donation from Trump. That request came as Bondi was considering allegations that Trump University — a real estate seminar business — had defrauded customers in Florida.” Bondi subsequently “decided not to pursue the case.” From the September 1 report:
Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump's company said, after it was revealed that Trump's charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida's attorney general.
The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.
In that year's tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump's foundation listed a donation — also for $25,000 — to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi's political group. In fact, Trump's foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.
The sequence began when Bondi herself solicited a donation from Trump. That solicitation was reported this year by the Associated Press. That request came as Bondi was considering allegations that Trump University — a real estate seminar business — had defrauded customers in Florida.
Trump decided to give to the group connected to Bondi, called “And Justice for All.” [The Washington Post, 9/1/16]
Sun Sentinel: “An Independent Federal Investigation Is Needed To Determine If [Trump’s] Foundation's $25,000 Gift Was Innocent And Above Board” The Sun Sentinel editorial board wrote that “an independent federal investigation is needed to determine if [Trump’s] foundation's $25,000 gift was innocent and above board.” The editorial board added, “Why didn’t Bondi return the money?” before noting that Trump “brags about buying politicians” and that Trump “hosted a $3,000-a-person fundraiser for [Bondi] at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach” after Bondi decided not to pursue a case against Trump University. From the September 8 editorial:
An independent federal investigation is needed to determine if his foundation's $25,000 gift was innocent and above board — or had the effect of keeping the attorney general from joining an investigation of Trump University.
Why didn't Bondi return the money? Surely she knew her office was considering an investigation. Did she not see any ethical red flags?
We never would have known about this eyebrow-raising episode were it not for Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell, who spotted Trump's donation shortly after Bondi's office said it had received complaints against Trump University and Trump Institute.
“I couldn't imagine any ethical prosecutor taking money from someone her office had been asked to investigate,” he wrote this week.
“Imagine you were robbed and the prosecutor gave the suspect a pass after taking $25,000 from him. There would be universal outrage — and rightfully so. This is not the behavior of an ethical prosecutor.”
And remember, Trump brags about buying politicians. “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them do to,” he said in July 2015, according to the New York Times.
Plus, there was this during a Republican debate last year: “When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them and they are there for me.”
Make no mistake, despite Bondi's inaction, plenty of Floridians lost big with Trump University.
It was learned this week that in 2014, after Bondi decided not to investigate Trump U, the billionaire hosted a $3,000-a-person fundraiser for her at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. [Sun Sentinel, 9/8/16]
Miami Herald: Unlike Clinton Foundation Story, “What Attracted Far Less Attention” Was News That Trump “Paid A Penalty To The IRS” For An Illegal Donation To Bondi. In an editorial headlined “Donald Trump’s gift to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi deserves a closer look,” the Miami Herald wrote that “What attracted far less attention than the numerous stories about the Clinton/Foundation connection was news disclosed by the Washington Post that Donald Trump paid a penalty to the IRS involving a $25,000 gift by the Trump Foundation.” The board added that “unlike the faux scandal over the Clinton institution, there were actual victims” in the Trump University case. From the September 6 editorial:
What attracted far less attention than the numerous stories about the Clinton/Foundation connection was news disclosed by the Washington Post that Donald Trump paid a penalty to the IRS involving a $25,000 gift by the Trump Foundation.
The recipient was a political committee called And Justice for All controlled by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. As a registered nonprofit, the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political donations. The gift violated federal regulations.
That the gift was given and received is not in dispute. The transaction took place. After the IRS action, Mr. Trump reimbursed the foundation and paid the $2,500 fine personally, according to a spokesman for the Trump Organization.
The rest remains murky, and, so far, riddled with contractions and misdirection. Originally, for example, the Trump Foundation said it gave the money to another group in Kansas with a similar name to Ms. Bondi’s political group. Then it blamed a clerical error and said it should have come from Mr. Trump’s account, not from his foundation.
More serious are the questions about why the money was given and how it came about.
Ms. Bondi has admitted that she personally solicited a donation from the candidate. Around the same time, Ms. Bondi’s office said it was weighing an investigation into allegations of fraud against scandal-ridden Trump University. Ms. Bondi, one of Mr. Trump’s top supporters in Florida, ultimately decided not to pursue the case or join New York and other states in a lawsuit.
It may all be completely innocent. What is puzzling, given the blanket coverage of the Clinton Foundation, is why the report of a foundation linked to a presidential nominee giving money to an attorney general weighing an investigation of an alleged scam involving the nominee should not get equal billing.
Unlike the faux scandal over the Clinton institution, there were actual victims here — people who paid good money to Trump University and feel they were duped. Why is Pam Bondi not investigating that? [Miami Herald, 9/6/16]
Tampa Bay Times: “Federal Prosecutors Should Investigate” The Connection Between Bondi Not Pursuing Trump U. Case And Trump Donation. The Tampa Bay Times editorial board called for federal prosecutors to “investigate whether there is any connection between the decision by Attorney General Pam Bondi's office not to pursue fraud allegations against Trump University and a $25,000 campaign contribution he gave her” because, as “Florida prosecutors will not touch this mess, the Justice Department is the only option.” From the September 8 editorial:
Federal prosecutors should investigate whether there is any connection between the decision by Attorney General Pam Bondi's office not to pursue fraud allegations against Trump University and a $25,000 campaign contribution he gave her. Since Florida prosecutors will not touch this mess, the Justice Department is the only option. The appearance of something more than a coincidence is too serious and the unresolved questions are too numerous to accept blanket denials by Bondi and Trump without more digging and an independent review.
Bondi has tried various defenses, and none of them are convincing. The Associated Press previously reported that Bondi personally spoke with Trump about a campaign contribution “several weeks” before her office publicly revealed it was reviewing fraud allegations, but that makes no difference. She has said the issues about Trump University first surfaced under her predecessor and never reached her desk, which raises more questions about her management. Her office also cannot get its story straight regarding how many complaints it had received about Trump University, ranging from zero to two over the years. Yet the Sentinel reports there are at least 20 Floridians who filed complaints with the Attorney General's Office, and at least eight Floridians complained in the New York case that they were victims of fraud. The only fact in Bondi's favor is that her campaign tried to return the Trump contribution when it discovered it was from the nonprofit but was rejected.
Now Bondi, who is further tarnishing her own reputation with her unqualified support of Trump, is resorting to playing the victim. She declared on Fox Business this week that she “will not be collateral damage in a presidential campaign. Nor will I be a woman bullied by Hillary Clinton.'' This has nothing to do with Clinton, and Bondi has been her own worst enemy. Sticking to friendly national media outlets and avoiding Florida journalists is not the strategy of a statewide elected official with nothing to hide. [Tampa Bay Times, 9/8/16]