Florida Republicans have moved in recent days to distance themselves from one of their own, Attorney General Pam Bondi. The moves come amid allegations she may have acted improperly after accepting a campaign contribution from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
- Bondi chose not to investigate Trump University consumer complaints
- Bondi accepted $25,000 contribution from Bondi's political committee
- Timing of contribution and decision raises questions for Democrats
Trump's $25,000 contribution to Bondi's political committee came as the attorney general's office was receiving consumer complaints charging that Trump University, a now-defunct real estate training program, had defrauded them. Bondi chose not to launch an investigation of Trump University, saying an investigation would have been without merit, but that Democrats charge her decision was motivated by Trump's check.
"The job and role of the Attorney General is to be an advocate for the people of the state," Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) wrote in a Wednesday letter requesting that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch convene a federal corruption investigation. "If the Attorney General is not conducting the people's business, that calls into question her true agenda.”
Far from coming to Bondi's aid, top-level Republicans have been largely silent about the unfolding scandal. Bondi's most vocal defender, in fact, is former Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who says his successor was simply operating within the confines of Florida's campaign finance system in accepting Trump's contribution.
Coming in the midst of an unpredictable election year that has many Republicans concerned about Trump's effect on the GOP brand, the scandal could be politically toxic for down-ticket Republican candidates. Some political strategists believe that explains the party's muted reaction.
Beyond the political ramifications, however, government watchdog groups argue the issue deserves attention as an exhibit in the effort to reform the role of money in politics.
"Overall, this whole thing illustrates the corrupt nature of our campaign finance system and calls into question decisions made by public officials when they have a relationship through campaign contributions with a donor," said Ben Wilcox of Integrity Florida.