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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

AP: Pam Bondi sought Donald Trump donation before dropping Trump U fraud case

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates, The Associated Press reports.

The new disclosure from a spokesman for Bondi to the AP adds new details to the unusual circumstances of Trump's $25,000 donation to a Bondi political committee. After the money came in, Bondi's office decided not to sue Trump.

The money came from a Trump family foundation, in apparent violation of rules regulating political activites by charities. A political group that backed Bondi's 2014 re-election, called And Justice for All, reported receiving the check on Sept. 17, 2013, four days after Bondi publicly announced she was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University's activities.

Mark Reichelderfer, a Tallahassee political consultant who worked for Bondi's 2014 re-election and who fielded questions on the donation at her request, told AP that Bondi spoke with Trump "several weeks" before her office announced it was deliberating whether to join a multi-state lawsuit proposed by New York's attorney general, Democrat Eric Schneiderman. Reichelderfer said Bondi was unaware of dozens of consumer complaints received by her office about Trump University filed before she solicited the donation.

"The process took at least several weeks from the time they spoke to the time they received the contribution," Reichelderfer told AP. The timing of the donation is notable because the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has said he expected and received favors from politicians to whom he gave money.

"When I want something, I get it," Trump said at a rally in Iowa in January. "When I call, they kiss my ass. It's true." 

The AP reviewed thousands of pages of records related to consumer complaints about Trump University and its affiliates that were filed with Bondi's office. The documents, previously obtained by The Orlando Sentinel, reveal a new reservoir of unhappy Trump University customers, despite recent claims from Trump that students of his real estate seminar company were overwhelmingly satisfied.

The states of New York and California, in a separate federal class action lawsuit, allege that Trump University, which was largely owned by Trump, defrauded consumers by as much as $35,000 with promises of a real estate investing education that they either did not receive or was found to be worthless. 

More than 60 people sought help from the Florida attorney general's office in obtaining refunds from Trump University and its affiliates.

"I was laid off work for the first time in my life and really need this money to support my family," one man wrote, saying he had been promised a refund but did not receive it. "$1,400 is so much money for my family."

Bondi's office has said she received only one complaint about Trump University at the time she decided not to join the New York investigation. Her office said that statement was accurate at the time because most complaints dealt with Trump Institute, a separate entity from Trump University. Trump Institute was licensed by Trump to run his real estate seminars, with Trump keeping a share of the profits.

Bondi, a former Hillsborough assistant state attorney, is in her second and final term as Florida's chief legal officer. Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott are the two most prominent elected officials in Florida who have endorsed Trump's candidacy for president. A message left on Bondi's cell phone Monday by the Times/Herald was not returned.




[Last modified: Monday, June 6, 2016 9:45pm]


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