Think you know what’s next for Pam Bondi? You have no idea.

A common question asked about Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is: What will she do next. Unfortunately, “I really have no idea,” is the stock answer from most insiders.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi isn't revealing much about her future after she leaves office next year. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi isn't revealing much about her future after she leaves office next year. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]
Published May 18, 2018

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has narrowed her future career plans to "two vastly different options," but good luck finding out what they are.

"If anyone claims to know what those opportunities are, it is not true because I have not yet even told my best friends or family," she said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

It took nearly a month to get Bondi to volunteer that nugget, the most she's revealed about the future of one of the most talked about politicians in Florida.

A post-election meeting at Trump Tower. A well-timed spring 2017 visit to the nation's capital. The swift exit of President Donald Trump's first drug czar.

Each incident sparked a fresh round of rumors: Is Bondi getting a job in the Trump administration?

Yet, a year and a half into Trump's presidency, Bondi is still Florida's attorney general. The daily "will she, won't she" speculation has long since subsided.

Now, with just eight months left in her term, it's not clear where Bondi will be next year. She's term-limited and not on the ballot for any other jobs, and even some of her closest confidants and political allies don't know what's next for the Republican firebrand.

"Your question is posed to me rather frequently, but I really have no idea," said Mark Ober, Bondi's former boss and mentor at the Hillsborough County state attorney's office.

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden, a longtime friend, said she's playing it close to the vest, but added, "Let me put it this way: I think she has a lot of different opportunities moving forward."

An appointment to the Trump administration is still not out of the question, those close to Bondi say. The White House declined to comment, and when last asked about it, Bondi sounded cool to the job most suggested as a fit, drug czar.

At 52, she is still well-positioned to cash in on a career that overlaps the legal profession, conservative politics and cable television.

"She's not the type of person who will be happy to be on the sidelines," said Bill McCollum, her predecessor as attorney general.

Florida's first female attorney general has enjoyed an unusually high profile for the position. Her partisan battles against President Barack Obama on health care and the environment drew criticism that she weaponized the office to carry out the bidding of the political right.

But those battles, and later her unwavering support for Trump, have made her a regular on Fox News. She's still a frequent guest on the channel, more often lately as a political commentator. This week Bondi appeared on the network to laud Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a topic that's hardly the purview of the state's top legal officer.

She is often mentioned as a candidate to land a full-time cable news gig when her term is up. She is comfortable in front of the camera, a skill she first honed from the 1990s until 2010 as spokeswoman for the Hillsborough state attorney.

Adam Goodman, a Tampa political strategist and the architect behind her successful 2010 campaign, said Bondi has had television offers, but they required her to move to New York, a step she wasn't ready to take then. He said she could take it now.

She also could keep working on issues like drug abuse and human sex trafficking, Goodman said, and her second career could lead her in that direction.

"I found her and still find her to be most compelling as someone who can power a message with presence," Goodman said.

Bondi remains a fixture in south Tampa, where she worked for 18 years as a prosecutor. She's recently been spotted at the grand opening of Four Green Fields' new bar location, a charity event hosted by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, a Top Golf outing for the Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, and the University of South Florida spring scrimmage.

Her close ties to the community lead people to believe she'll find work in her hometown. Plenty of white shoe firms would jump at the chance to add a former attorney general to their roster, said Rhea Law, a longtime Tampa lawyer now at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC.

"I would hope she would come back to Tampa but that's just me being selfish," Law said. "She's a very talented litigator so I have no doubt she would be able to do anything that she wanted in that regard."

Bondi has ruled out one idea: another foray into elected politics. "I've always said I'm not going to run for office again," she told the Associated Press this week. Her political action committee, Justice for All, has been largely dormant since last year.

Another campaign, or a Trump appointment for that matter, would likely instigate a new round of scrutiny on how she handled complaints about Trump University.

In 2013, Bondi decided not to follow New York in pursuing a lawsuit against Trump's embattled real estate school and around that time Trump's charitable foundation gave $25,000 to Bondi's re-election campaign. She has repeatedly denied any connection, but critics have called it an example of pay-for-play politics. Democrats — whether on a Senate confirmation panel or on the campaign trail — would likely grill her over it.

Goodman said that will have no bearing on her decision.

A Trump appointment hasn't happened, he said, "maybe in part because it's very impactful to have an ally like Pam in the position she's been in."

If she wants it, he said, "Her name would be on all sorts of lists up there."