TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was one of the highest-profile Republicans in the state to endorse Donald Trump before his primary win in the state, is now catching heat for her ties to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
The most tangible furor facing Bondi concerns an Associated Press report about a donation she received from Trump "around the same time" her office was considering joining an investigation against the businessman's namesake university. Bondi eventually decided not to join the case against Trump's venture.
Marc Reichelderfer, a political consultant for Bondi when she ran for re-election, told the AP that Bondi personally solicited the contribution in 2013.
"The process took at least several weeks, from the time they spoke to the time they received the contribution," Reichelderfer said.
And Justice for All, a group that supported Bondi's re-election, tried to return the $25,000 contribution to the Trump Foundation because the money came from a charity, but the organization refused to accept the refund and said Trump had reimbursed it from his personal wealth, the AP also reported. Charities are prohibited from contributing to political campaigns.
Florida Democrats hammered away at Bondi over the disclosure.
"It's the attorney general's job to protect Florida consumers, not political allies like Donald Trump," said outgoing House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. "Bondi's conduct is unacceptable and Floridians deserve the full accounting an independent investigation would bring."
Sen. Dwight Bullard, a Miami Democrat locked in what is expected to be a tight primary fight with former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for an investigation. Bullard also pointed to stories from The New York Times in 2014 that raised questions over Bondi's relationship with lobbyists for Dickstein Shapiro, a now-shuttered law firm.
Bullard said the report about Trump marks "the latest in a pattern of questionable behavior exhibited by Ms. Bondi" as attorney general.
"The pattern raises serious questions of whether a quid pro quo exists within the office for favorable treatment in exchange for campaign assistance, some of it reportedly directly solicited by the Attorney General herself," Bullard wrote.
In public statements and a voicemail message left for a reporter with the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times' joint Tallahassee bureau, Bondi said she did nothing wrong.
"I never, nor was my office, investigating him. Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I've been obviously devastated over this," she said in the voicemail.
The more intriguing question involves who is the real target for Florida Democrats. Bondi has repeatedly declined efforts to draft her to run for another office, whether the U.S. Senate or governor. There have been rumors that Trump might consider Bondi for a post in his administration.
But even if the fire is focused on Bondi right now, it helps keep alive the story of Trump University in Florida. Trump has faced heat for suggesting that a federal judge overseeing a case against the enterprise was being unfair to the presidential candidate, who has made stopping illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, because of the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage.
Bloomberg Politics reported this week that Trump had a conference call with supporters in which he encouraged them to join his attacks on the judge. Among those supporters was Bondi.