Ethics panel to review Bondi-Trump donation complaint

BY GRAY ROHRER
ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Commission on Ethics will hold a hearing later this month to review an ethics complaint against Attorney General Pam Bondi over her solicitation of a $25,000 campaign donation from President Donald Trump in 2013.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks in support of Donald Trump during a campaign rally at Bayfront Park Amphitheater on Nov. 02, 2016 in Miami.
(PEDRO PORTAL/MIAMI HERALD/TNS)

Bondi’s office later decided not to investigate Trump University, a real estate investment seminar that many attendees say defrauded them.

The hearing on April 21 in Tallahassee will review a preliminary investigation conducted by the panel and determine whether there is probable cause to move forward with the complaint.

The original complaint against Bondi was filed by Whitfield Larrabee, a Boston lawyer. Three other complaints have been filed against Bondi, according to a letter sent to Larrabee about the hearing.

2013 request
In 2013 Bondi asked Trump for a donation to her political committee, And Justice For All.
Bondi has said there was no quid pro quo between her and Trump to halt any investigation.

A Bondi spokeswoman said in September 2013, the same month the donation was reported to her political committee, her office was looking into Trump University complaints, but opted not to investigate or join a similar case in New York. After the 2016 presidential election, Trump agreed to a $25 million settlement in the New York case.

Case transferred
Larrabee also filed a complaint with Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, who asked Gov. Rick Scott to transfer the case because Bondi had worked in his office.

Scott moved it to Stephen Russell, state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit in southwest Florida. His office confirmed last week it is still investigating.

Under state law, the commission only has the power to levy fines against public officials if it finds an ethics violation. Its hearings are not criminal proceedings.

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