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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Butterworth, longest-serving attorney general, defends Bondi

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is coming under fire from Democrats for having solicited a $25,000 check from Donald Trump, and subsequently deciding that there was "no basis" for her office to open an investigation of Trump University. But one prominent Florida Democrat refuses to criticize Bondi.

Bob Butterworth, who served four terms as attorney general (1986-2002), longer than any other A.G. in Florida, emphasized that he did not know all the factual details of Bondi accepting Trump's money through her political committee and her agency's handling of the Trump U. complaints.

Contacted by the Times/Herald for rcomment on the Bondi controversy, Butterworth said Bondi's actions were "sound" and he said: "I know Pam. She's not going to take action, or not take action, based on a campaign contribution."

Bondi's office has said she forwarded consumer complaints to New York's Eric Schneiderman, who had already begun a probe of Trump's now-defunct real estate school, and Butterworth said it's routine for attorneys general with limited resources to allow another state to take the lead on certain cases. "Here you have an A.G. (Schneiderman) and he's got many more cases. He's also got the resources to do it," Butterworth said.

Butterworth, a Hillary Clinton supporter, is no fan of Trump, calling his criticism of a judge's ancestry "totally out of line" and sufficient to disqualify Trump as a candidate for president. "What would happen if he had to appoint a Supreme Court justice?" Butterworth said of Trump.

Butterworth, a long-time Broward resident, is an attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The firm has a major lobbying presence in Tallahassee but Butterworth himself is not a lobbyist. He has had a storied career in Florida politics as a prosecutor, judge, director of the state highway safety agency and was honorary chairman of Al Gore's 2000 Florida campaign — yes, the one that came within 537 votes of winning the White House.

He said he could not recall a single case in which he was offered campaign money by someone who figured in a pending case in his office. "But we didn't have PACs back then, either," he said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 12:35pm]


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