Donald Trump’s courtship of Florida attorney general, Pam Bondi, whose office was reviewing fraud allegations at Trump University, is drawing more intense scrutiny after it was revealed he donated $25,000 to her political committee in 2013 before she then decided to refuse to press charges against Trump University.
Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service over the 2013 campaign gift. That gift may have been prompted by a story in The Orlando Sentinel only days before that the New York State attorney general’s office had sued Trump University and Bondi’s office was deciding whether to join the lawsuit.
Trump’s donation came from his charitable foundation, an action that violated tax regulations, as reported by The Washington Post.
The Huffington Post reported, “As late as Sept. 14, 2013, Bondi’s spokesman said that the office was reviewing the allegations ‘to see if they have any relevance in Florida.’ But around that time, Bondi personally solicited Trump for a political donation. On Sept. 17, the real estate mogul’s charitable foundation wrote the $25,000 check to the Bondi-backing PAC named And Justice For All.”
In addition to the donation, Trump also held a fundraiser for Bondi after she declined to pursue an investigation against Trump University. The event took place at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate; he charged $3,000 per person and only charged $4,855.65 for the use of the site. Yet Trump has charged his own campaign $140,000 to rent out Mar-a-Lago, according to The Huffington Post, which pointed out that Bondi personally solicited donations from Donald Trump after it went public that her office might join the New York State attorney general’s office in suing Trump University.
So the sequence of events looks like this: Bondi solicits donations from Trump after the notice that she might join the investigation; Trump donates $25,000 to her political committee in September 2013; Bondi eschews the investigation; Trump hosts fundraiser for Bondi’s reelection campaign at Mar-a-Lago.
To make matters even more murky, Trump’s tax returns listed the political donation as a $25,000 contribution to a Kansas charity with a similar sounding name, thus allowing the donation to fly under the radar of the IRS.
Trump has had problems with political donations before; a New York State commission subpoenaed Trump in the 1980’s; he testified that he had circumvented the state’s $50,000 individual and $5,000 corporate contribution limits by channeling his donations to a city councilman through 18 subsidiary companies. In the 1990’s, the Federal Election Commission fined Trump for exceeding the annual limit on campaign contributions by $47,050, which was the largest violation ever at that time. In 2000, the New York State lobbying commission fined Trump $250,000 because he didn’t disclose all of his lobbying of state legislators.
The sad truth is this, as Sara Gonzales of RedState noted of Trump’s dealings with Bondi, et al, “This will surely prove it difficult for the Republican nominee to hit Hillary Clinton on her own pay-to-play allegations.”