The invitation to Donald Trump’s March 14, 2014, fundraiser for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

WASHINGTON ― In March 2014, Donald Trump opened his 126-room Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, for a $3,000-per-person fundraiser for Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who had recently decided not to investigate Trump University and was facing a tough re-election campaign.

Trump, whose personal foundation had given $25,000 to a pro-Bondi group the previous fall, did not write a check to the attorney general that night. But by hosting her at Mar-a-Lago and bringing in some of his own high-profile Florida contacts, he provided her campaign with a nice financial boost.

Trump has claimed that Bondi was merely a candidate he knew well and supported politically. But his fundraising efforts were extensive: In addition to the $25,000 donation, Trump and his daughter Ivanka gave $500 each to Bondi in the fall of 2013. The following year, Ivanka and her father donated a total of $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

All this monetary effort could suggest that Donald Trump was thanking Bondi for not probing his failed seminar program. His efforts to boost her politically came during and after a period when she was being publicly pressed to investigate claims that get-rich-quick seminars bearing his name were defrauding participants.

The use of Mar-a-Lago alone was a donation of some value. Space at the resort is expensive to rent. Trump has charged his own presidential campaign roughly $140,000 an event for use of the resort.

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.

Trump’s courtship of Bondi, including the Mar-a-Lago event, could complicate a line of attack his campaign is currently making against Hillary Clinton. Trump and his surrogates have attacked Clinton’s family foundation for accepting donations from governments and individuals with business before the State Department during her tenure there. They have suggested that, in turn, those donors were given special access to then-Secretary of State Clinton and her staff.

Clinton and her aides have denied that charge and responded by arguing that Trump has used his money to influence politicians ― an accusation that he hasn’t always denied.

“I’ve got to give [campaign contributions] to them, because when I want something, I get it,” he said in January. “When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass. It’s true.”

Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images
Donald Trump and Pam Bondi meet again at the Palm Beach Lincoln Day Dinner at Mar-a-Lago on March 20, 2016.

Complaints against Trump University and its predecessor Trump Institute began before Bondi took office in 2011. Her predecessor as Florida attorney general, Bill McCollum, had received numerous complaints from attendees of the Trump Institute. According to those attendees, the institute had promised classes and mentoring that never materialized, and when customers complained, it refused to give refunds.

Not everybody was unhappy with the attorney general’s response at that point. One attendee, Sheila Roberts, contacted McCollum’s office in 2009 when she did not receive a refund of almost $2,000. Roberts told The Huffington Post that she felt the office handled her complaint appropriately.

“I did get my money back, so no problem there,” she said. Roberts added that she is voting for Trump.

But for many unhappy customers of the real estate seminars, refunds were few and far between.

Carol Minto of Connecticut said the Trump Institute, which is based in Florida, refused to honor her refund. She reported the matter to both the Florida and Connecticut attorneys general, but only heard back from the latter, who helped her get her money back.

“Trump holds himself out to be this great person in real estate, and I wanted to learn how I could buy and sell properties just like him,” Minto told HuffPost. “And he didn’t even turn up. He just had a picture of himself [at the seminar].”

When Bondi was elected attorney general, the broader question of what to do about all the Trump Institute complaints ― and whether Florida could or should join impending lawsuits ― hadn’t been resolved. As late as September 2013, Bondi’s spokesman said that she would look into the allegations “to see if they have any relevance in Florida.”

But around that time, Bondi personally solicited Trump for a political donation. The real estate mogul’s charitable foundation responded by writing the $25,000 check to a Bondi-backing group named And Justice For All. (The check proved to be a violation of Internal Revenue Service rules for tax-exempt nonprofits. Trump recently paid a $2,500 penalty.)

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Trump and Bondi arrive at a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 24, 2016.

Florida resident Kenneth Lafrate claims that the Trump Institute scammed him out of roughly $7,000, most of which paid for a mentoring program. He said he spoke to a mentor online “for a number of months,” until the mentor abruptly stopped answering messages. Lafrate contacted the Florida attorney general’s office as early as 2008 but said he did not receive a response. When he later learned of Trump’s connection to Bondi through news reports, he stopped expecting to get assistance.

“She’s not going to do anything because she’s kind of in with [him],” he told HuffPost.

Lafrate said he also notified New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed a fraud suit against Trump in 2013, and received “a nice letter saying that they were aggressively pursuing this.”

Another Trump Institute attendee, Mitzie Andrade of Connecticut, reached out to the Florida attorney general’s office in 2008 in an attempt to get a refund on the more than $3,000 she had paid. Andrade told HuffPost that she heard back from McCollum’s office and eventually received her money.

“I got everything back. I was lucky, I guess,” Andrade said. “Some people weren’t as lucky, I’m sure. It is not a real seminar, it is a scam. It is a downright scam.”

Trump has pushed back against criticism of his seminar programs for years, in part by offering up positive reviews by some attendees. To this day, the first entry on the “Issues” page of Trump’s presidential campaign website is a video of people insisting that Trump University was not a scam. It’s worth noting, however, that none of these positive reviewers are descibed as working in the real estate business that the institute claimed to teach them all about.

Bondi’s office did at least some outreach to Trump’s alleged victims. On Oct. 10, 2013, a representative for her office followed up with Harold Stevens, who claimed he first learned about Trump’s seminars from a radio commercial. The representative promised the office was “concerned with all potentially unfair and deceptive trade practices.”

In September 2013, three days before Trump’s foundation donated to the pro-Bondi group, the Orlando Sentinel reported that her office was considering joining the New York lawsuit. But Bondi’s office ultimately did not.

At the time, the Florida attorney general’s office said there was no need to file the state’s own suit, with so many other lawsuits in other states underway.

Florida and New York aren’t the only states where campaign donations appeared to be linked to efforts to quash investigations of Trump. In 2013, the businessman gave $35,000 to then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, after Abbott dropped his probe into Trump University.

A former employee of Trump University, who requested anonymity because he has a nondisclosure agreement, said that politics played a role in decisions by some top state prosecutors.

“All we have to do is stroke a check to the committee to re-elect [the state attorney general],” the individual said. “And the problems go away.”

 S.V. Date contributed reporting.