Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday defended accepting a $25,000 donation from Donald Trump at the same time as her office evaluated whether to investigate Trump’s sham real estate seminar business.
In a press conference, Bondi said “there was nothing improper. I will never let money from anyone affect what I do. I’m proud of my office. I’m proud of the work that we do.”
Bondi has said her office did not drop an investigation into Trump’s fake university. Rather, she says no formal investigation ever existed.
In September 2013, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Bondi’s office was evaluating claims against Trump Institute, a local affiliate of Trump University, which sold real estate seminars and was not, as the name suggested, an accredited academic institution. Instead, consumers paid thousands of dollars to learn about real estate investing and got very little, if anything, in return. Three days after the story was published, a group supporting Bondi’s campaign received a $25,000 contribution from Trump’s charity.
The New York Times reported that the check from Trump’s foundation, which he signed, was dated four days before the Sentinel article was published. Ultimately, Bondi did not join New York’s case and did not pursue a formal investigation of Trump University.
Trump recently paid a $2,500 IRS fine for making the gift from his charity ― nonprofits are prohibited from making political contributions. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported that Trump’s charity did not list the political donation on its annual tax filings. Instead, the disclosure form listed a donation to a Kansas charity with a similar name. A Trump Organization spokesman, Jeffrey McConney, told the Post three weeks ago that the incorrect listing “was just an honest mistake… It wasn’t done intentionally to hide a political donation, it was just an error.”
Bondi said she never thought to return the donation, because “if I had returned it, you would have reported, ‘Bondi accepted bribe, got caught, and returned it.’”
Trump’s financial support of Bondi did not stop with his improper $25,000 gift in 2013. The Huffington Post reported last week that Trump hosted a $3,000-per-person fundraiser for Bondi at his Palm Beach mansion, Mar-A-Lago, in March 2014. Trump and his daughter Ivanka also gave $500 each to Bondi’s campaign in fall 2013. And in 2014, the pair donated another $125,000 to the Florida Republican Party, which was Bondi’s single biggest source of campaign funds.
Trump has openly bragged that he uses campaign contributions to get favors from politicians and has a long history of giving gifts to officials who make decisions that are helpful to him and his businesses. “I’ve got to give [campaign contributions] to them, because when I want something, I get it,” Trump said in January.
But in this case, Trump says he donated money to support Bondi’s campaign simply because he likes her.