Complaint filed over Donald Trump Foundation’s ties to Pam Bondi

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A watchdog group on Monday filed a complaint against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump‘s foundation, saying it violated its tax-exempt status when it contributed $25,000 in 2013 toward Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s re-election.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, asked the Internal Revenue Service to “investigate whether the Trump Foundation violated federal law.” The group also said the foundation failed to disclose the contribution in its annual financial disclosure.

In September 2013, the foundation gave $25,000 to “And Justice for All,” an electioneering communications organization (ECO) that supported Bondi’s re-election. Under state law, ECOs can only pay for things such as television, radio or digital ads.

The donation came about the same time that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for $40 million, citing dozens of complaints about the now-defunct “Trump University.”

Schneiderman alleged the program enticed students with a get-rich-from-real-estate scheme, then socked them with expensive and sub-par seminars. Bondi did not get involved with that suit, which is still pending.

The watchdog’s complaint, filed 2½ years after the contribution was made, comes as Trump is barreling toward the GOP nomination, with 678 delegates. To clinch, he needs 1,237 by the Republican National Convention this June in Cleveland.

Bondi won re-election to a second and final term in 2014, notching a double-digit margin over Democratic challenger George Sheldon and Libertarian candidate Bill Wohlsifer. She has since endorsed Trump for president.

The complaint says that Trump’s foundation, as a 501(c)(3) group under federal tax law, is “prohibited from all political activity, including contributing to political organizations.”

“The rules are clear: A tax-exempt charitable foundation cannot support a political group,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “The apparent failure to tell the IRS about this political activity makes matters worse and is something we’ve seen too many organizations doing lately.”

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to an email for comment. A spokesman for Bondi also declined comment Monday afternoon, saying the matter “does not involve the Florida Attorney General’s Office.”

Sheldon used the contribution as political fodder during the campaign, essentially accusing her of a pay-for-play deal. Bondi angrily denied that charge at an Associated Press legislative planning session at the Capitol in January 2014, calling it “untrue … despicable,” and “a lie.”

Bondi said her office received “one complaint” in 2011, which was closed by her citizen services’ staff, according to a Tampa Tribune account. Because the New York case sought relief for all former students, Bondi did not get involved with that lawsuit, she said.

“One complaint does not make for an active investigation,” she said. “I wrote (Sheldon’s comments) down because I’m not letting this one go … He said I would make an investigation ‘evaporate’? For a campaign contribution? Come on.”

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.