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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Attorney: Bondi's office never checked for conflict of interest with Trump donation

30

September

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has no written policy about checking for conflicts of interest and never looked into any possible conflict surrounding a $25,000 check from Donald Trump that has caused allegations of pay-for-play politics.

In a letter responding to requests filed by Massachusetts lawyer J. Whitfield Larrabee, a Bondi staffer wrote that "a search of our records has produced no public records responsive to your request." Larrabee provided the letter to the Times/Herald.

On Sept. 6, Larrabee, who has filed ethics cases alleging Bondi's political committee improperly accepted money from Trump, requested copies of "records setting forth the policy, practice or procedure of the attorney general's office for checking conflicts of interest" both in 2013 and in 2016, as well as any records of a check into the $25,000 check.

Even after questions were raised about the check, it appears no one in Bondi's office investigated whether there was any impropriety.

That check dominated presidential politics early this month as national news organizations stirred up a a third wave of questions about it. The September 2013 contribution from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Pam Bondi's political committee, And Justice For All, came around the time that New York filed a lawsuit against Trump University, alleging it scammed students out of thousands of dollars.

Florida never followed suit, and records show that even when Bill McCollum was attorney general and as early as the first months of Bondi's term in 2011, the state showed little interest in complaints against Trump's real estate seminars.

Earlier this month, Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray told the Times/Herald that the attorney general's office does not require employees to sign a code of ethics and instead has distributed chapter 112 of the Florida Satutes, which includes ethics rules that all state employees are required to abide by.

Chapter 112 bans conflicts of interest, but Larrabee has raised concerns that the attorney general's office does not have a written policy about checking for them.

Bondi has insisted that she did nothing wrong. And in fact, she didn't even need the money, winning re-election handily in 2014 and with funds to spare.

"I just knew there was nothing improper," Bondi said at a press conference last week in the Florida Capitol. "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."

Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

 

[Last modified: Friday, September 30, 2016 3:02pm]

    

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