Pam Bondi Archives - Page 5 of 23 - SaintPetersBlog

Amendment to restore voting rights to Florida felons clears key hurdle

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that could allow former criminals to vote have met a key hurdle in their quest to make the ballot.

State election officials this week reported that amendment supporters have gathered nearly 71,000 signatures from registered voters. This means the initiative will be reviewed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Supreme Court of Florida.

Florida’s constitution bars people convicted of felonies from being able to vote after they have left prison. Convicted felons must ask the governor and members of the Cabinet to have their voting rights restored.

The amendment would allow most convicted felons to have their voting rights automatically restored after they have completed their prison sentences and probation. Felons convicted of murder or a sexual offense would not be eligible.

Amendment supporters are aiming to place the amendment on the 2018 ballot.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Donald Trump signed improper charity check supporting Pam Bondi

Donald Trump‘s signature, an unmistakable if nearly illegible series of bold vertical flourishes, was scrawled on the improper $25,000 check sent from his personal foundation to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Charities are barred from engaging in political activities, and the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign has contended for weeks that the 2013 check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation was mistakenly issued following a series of clerical errors. Trump had intended to use personal funds to support Bondi’s re-election, his campaign said.

So, why didn’t Trump catch the purported goof himself when he signed the foundation check?

Trump lawyer Alan Garten offered new details about the transaction to The Associated Press on Thursday, after a copy of the Sept. 9, 2013, check was released by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Garten said the billionaire businessman personally signs hundreds of checks a week, and that he simply didn’t catch the error.

“He traditionally signs a lot of checks,” said Garten, who serves as in-house counsel for various business interests at Trump Tower in New York City. “It’s a way for him to monitor and keep control over what’s going on in the company. It’s just his way. … I’ve personally been in his office numerous times and seen a big stack of checks on his desk for him to sign.”

The 2013 donation to Bondi’s political group has garnered intense scrutiny because her office was at the time fielding media questions about whether she would follow the lead of Schneiderman, who had then filed a lawsuit against Trump University and Trump Institute. Scores of former students say they were scammed by Trump’s namesake get-rich-quick seminars in real estate.

Bondi, whom the AP reported in June personally solicited the $25,000 check from Trump, took no action. Both Bondi and Trump say their conversation had nothing to do with the Trump University litigation, though neither has answered questions about what they did discuss or provided the exact date the conversation occurred.

House Democrats called earlier this week for a federal criminal investigation into the donation, suggesting Trump was trying to bribe Bondi with the charity check. Schneiderman, a Democrat, said he was already investigating to determine whether Trump’s charity broke state laws.

Garten said the series of errors began after Trump instructed his staff to cut a $25,000 check to the political committee supporting Bondi, called And Justice for All.

Someone in Trump’s accounting department then consulted a master list of charitable organizations maintained by the IRS and saw a Utah charity by the same name that provides legal aid to the poor. According to Garten, that person, whom he declined to identify by name, then independently decided that the check should come from the Trump Foundation account rather than Trump’s personal funds.

The check was then printed and returned for Trump’s signature. After it was signed, Garten said, Trump’s office staff mailed the check to its intended recipient in Florida, rather than to the charity in Utah.

Emails released by Bondi’s office show her staff was first contacted at the end of August by a reporter for The Orlando Sentinel asking about the Trump University lawsuit in New York.

Trump’s Sept. 9 check is dated four days before the newspaper printed a story quoting Bondi’s spokeswoman saying her office was reviewing Schneiderman’s suit, but four days before the pro-Bondi political committee reports receiving the check in the mail.

Compounding the confusion, the following year on its 2013 tax forms the Trump Foundation reported making a donation to a Kansas charity called Justice for All. Garten said that was another accounting error, rather than an attempt to obscure the improper donation to the political group.

In March, The Washington Post first revealed that that the donation to the pro-Bondi group had been misreported on the Trump Foundation’s 2013 tax forms. The following day, records show Trump signed an IRS form disclosing the error and paying a $2,500 fine.

Bondi has endorsed Trump’s presidential bid and has campaigned with him this year.

She has said the timing of Trump’s donation was coincidental and that she wasn’t personally aware of the consumer complaints her office had received about Trump University and the Trump Institute, a separate Florida business that paid Trump a licensing fee and a cut of the profits to use his name and curriculum.

Neither company was still offering seminars by the time Bondi took office in 2011, though dissatisfied former customers were still seeking promised refunds.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Florida Dems file election complaint against Donald Trump in Pam Bondi deal

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant filed a complaint Thursday with the Florida Elections Commission charging that Donald Trump violated Florida law with his $25,000 donation to a committee supporting the re-election of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The complaint does not charge Bondi with any wrongdoing. And it doesn’t delve into the relationship between Trump and Bondi. Rather, it deals with what happened later as the money moved around.

The elections charge against Trump involves his 2013 Trump Foundation’s $25,000 donation to And Justice For All, a now-closed electioneering communications organization. The donation came as Bondi’s office was reviewing complaints against his Trump University. Bondi’s office decided not to investigate the complaints or join a lawsuit pursued by New York’s attorney general.

Democrats have characterized the donation as a bribe from Trump to Bondi to dissuade any investigation of Trump University. Trump and Bondi have both denied it.

Tant’s complaint doesn’t go there at all, though she references it in a press release accompanying a copy of the complaint.

Rather, the formal complaint delves into the complex financial shufflings that followed, involving And Justice For All; the political action committee that succeed it, Justice For All; the Trump Foundation; and Trump himself. Essentially, it charges that the $25,000 was moved around between funds, ultimately illegally.

“As previously reported, Pam Bondi personally solicited Trump for a donation. The Trump Foundation then donated $25,000 to Pam Bondi in violation of IRS code. When Bondi attempted to return the donation, the Foundation refused to accept the check. Trump then personally reimbursed the Donald J. Trump Foundation $25,000 in violation of Section 106.08(5)(a), Florida Statutes,” the Florida Dems’ press release states.

“Donald Trump’s record of using his foundation to exert his political will, as well as [the] purchase of six-foot portraits of himself, is well-established,” Tant stated in the release. “Unfortunately for the ‘law and order’ candidate, reimbursing his foundation for a $25,000 illegal donation to Pam Bondi is in violation of Florida elections law prohibiting donors from giving contributions in the name of another entity. While a full inquiry by the Department of Justice is needed, we are hopeful the Florida Elections Commission will do its part to hold Trump accountable for his flagrant disregard of the law.”

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Hillsborough Clerk Pat Frank gets the last word in beef with Hillsborough PTC

Less than two weeks before Hillsborough County Democrats went to the polls last month to vote in the clerk of the court race, WTSP-Channel 10 ran an explosive story on how the Public Transportation Commission had lost faith in the office, and was now taking public money away from the clerk’s control. The story painted Clerk of the Court Pat Frank in an extremely bad light, just as early voting had begun in her bitter primary race against Kevin Beckner. Ultimately, the story did nothing to harm her electoral prospects, and she ended up crushing Beckner by more than 18 percentage points on Election Day.

Frank stood before the PTC board and its executive director, Kyle Cockream, at Wednesday’s monthly meeting, and blasted the public bashing of her office.

“We’re used to criticism,” she said, but added that it was “frustrating when when we are blamed for something that is not our fault.”

Frank acknowledged independent auditors made critical discoveries surrounding the PTC’s accounting in the past three years, but contended those issues had nothing to do with the clerk’s office.

“The audits clearly state that the problems are with your staff, which has struggled to adapt to a new computerized accounting system,” she said. “More training is clearly needed and my staff stands ready to help. My office was also criticized for late payments to vendors and duplicate payments. A review of the past 12 months shows that my office paid your invoices within 3.5 days, though often the invoices were not sent to us for weeks. We cannot pay invoices unless they are sent to us with proper documentation. Also, the same review found only one duplicate payment, which was the result of PTC staff error.”

The story also alleged the PTC had discovered the clerk’s office was about to pay $180,000 for an $18,000 vehicle.

Never happened, Frank said on Wednesday.

“The invoice was submitted incorrectly by the vendor and caught by the PTC staff,” she said. “It was never sent to my office. We have repeatedly asked your staff for documentation to back up its complaints about my office.”

The clerk’s office has handled the accounting for the PTC for decades, but Cockream has recently authorized the agency to begin looking for services from the private sector. In her parting remarks, Frank said he should “feel free” to do so, but “just don’t criticize my office on your way out the door.”

But before leaving the dais, Frank took a shot at the agency’s payment to the Tallahassee lobbying firm of Corcoran & Associates in 2015 — a payment noted PTC critic Jeff Brandes called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate

“If you want to save money, you might consider deleting the $120,000 you paid to Corcoran & Associates — a firm with family connections to the incoming speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran. Thank you for your time.”

There was no microphone for Frank to drop, or she undoubtedly would have done so with that zinger.

“I’m really sorry if anyone’s feelings got hurt in all of this. That was certainly not the intention,” Cockream responded later in the afternoon, adding he has had recent conversations with Frank’s staff. “If we can find a resolution to the issues at hand, then that’s the end of the game. I don’t see any benefit in engaging in any public bantering back and forth about it. She’s an elected official and I respect that office and I’d never do that.”

 

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New York AG opens investigation against Trump Foundation

New York’s attorney general is investigating the Donald J. Trump Foundation to make sure the organization is complying with state laws governing charities.

POLITICO is reporting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “has opened an inquiry into the Trump Foundation based on troubling transactions that have recently come to light.” Schneiderman announced the investigation Tuesday.

Schneiderman recently filed a lawsuit against Trump University, and in an interview with CNN, said the Manhattan billionaire’s charitable foundation is also under examination.

“My interest in this issue really is in my capacity as regulator of nonprofits in New York state,”  Schneiderman told “The Lead” host Jake Tapper. “And we have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view. … We have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.”

The continued interest in the Trump Foundation comes after several news stories cite tax records showing Trump had not given to his own foundation since 2008, as well as a Washington Post report saying he “spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a 6-foot-tall painting of himself.”

Among the troubles facing Trump’s Foundation include an illegal donation in 2013 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, during the time Bondi was considering joining Schneiderman in a fraud case against Trump University.

Both Trump and Bondi have denied any connection between the donation and her ultimate decision not to continue the investigation; Trump later paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS for making political donations through a charitable foundation.

Schneiderman, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, has insisted no political motivations were behind the Trump University inquiry and had not hesitated to discuss the case publicly.

Trump University was “really a fraud from beginning to end” and “just a scam,” Schneiderman told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in June. If elected, Trump might have to testify as either president or president-elect,  Schneiderman said.

According to POLITICO, Trump responded by calling Schneiderman “hack” and a “lightweight,” claiming the attorney general “is trying to extort me with a civil lawsuit.”

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Hillary Clinton ad goes after Donald Trump-Pam Bondi money

A new Hillary Clinton commercial being released on the internet Wednesday highlights the donation Donald Trump‘s foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and calls it corrupt politics.

The 2013 donation, made as Bondi’s office was reviewing a potential action against Trump University in Florida, has become big fodder for Democrats. On Tuesday, members of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation called for a federal investigation. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said it looks like “a bribe” and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said it looks like corruption.

Now it’s Clinton’s turn.

The 30-second spot begins by defending the Clinton Foundation, which was attacked as corrupt by Republicans and Trump. And then the narrator urges people to look at the Trump Foundation. Exhibit No. 1 [and only exhibit in the ad]: the $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation to Bondi’s re-election campaign, followed by her office’s decision to not investigate Trump University.

Trump and Bondi have insisted there was no quid-pro-quo.

Here’s Hillary’s recount of the matter, as told by the narrator, while ABC News footage of Trump and Bondi hugging onstage rolls:

“He sent Florida AG Pam Bondi thousands from his foundation just as she was considering an investigation into his sham university. She cashed the check, blocked the case. And he tried to cover up the donation. So, when you hear Donald Trump talk about corrupt politics, remember which candidate actually practices it.”

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Blake Dowling: With rising cybercrime, it’s good hearing bad guys get caught

Over the years, I have composed dozens of columns on cyberthreats, skimming credit cards at the pump, boss-phishing, crypto locker, identity theft, and in a lot of the stories, you don’t hear about the bad guys getting the hammer.

The Department of Homeland Security has an enormous task of defending government agencies from nation-state cyberattacks, as well as criminals on our own turf.

They usually don’t have time for Joe-Bob average citizen.

Same for identity theft. If you have your identity stolen, and the criminal makes bogus purchases in your name in another state, local authorities might tell you to report in that other state, which is about as helpful as a microwave lasagna in a power outage (#Hermine).

However, the FBI is the head agency for investigating and defending us from cyberattacks. But again, they are generally after looking for the big threats, and not so much worried about the little guy or gal.

A story over the weekend shows the citizens of Florida getting some help at the state level. Attorney General Pam Bondi took down a tech company called Client Care Experts based out of Boynton Beach that was defrauding “clients” out of millions of dollars.

The alleged fraud consisted of the following scenario. They would infect a user’s PC with malware, and a pop-up message would alert the “victim” to call tech support immediately. That call would be routed to the Client Care Experts’ call center where the sales people would charge them $250.00 to clean the computer.

Unfortunately, as with a lot of scams, these individuals are more than likely targeting our large elderly population, and that makes the situation even more dastardly.

With the court order to shut down the company in place that should keep any future victim safe while the matter is thoroughly investigated and the hammer of justice pummels these fellows (if guilty, of course).

“Floridians rely on computers to communicate with family and friends, make purchases and conduct business, and when scammers target these devices they can scare and frustrate consumers, especially our seniors. That is why we are working diligently to identify and stop tech scams targeting Floridians,” Bondi said.

Online threats are becoming more and more persistent so it is nice to hear about someone fighting the good fight and some of these criminals getting caught.

As a reminder — if someone calls you about remoting into your computer, hang up and consult your IT professional. Do not click on links or files in emails that look suspicious; keep your security products (firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spam software) up to date, utilize two-factor authentication with financial institutions.

And — last but not least — keep passwords complicated. Stay safe out there.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His columns are publishing by several organizations. You can reach him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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Bob Sparks: Is Team Bondi ready for battle?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is reluctantly moving onstage in the 2016 presidential campaign. With the national polls tightening between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, her advocates are looking for ways to change the narrative.

Who can blame them? With the drip, drip, drip of damaging revelations surrounding the email investigation and foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, they need to spin the story that Trump and his foundation also behave badly.

Trump University is that opportunity. The Clinton side and publications such as the Washington Post, are trying to sow the seeds of a story that Bondi was, in effect, bribed by a $25,000 contribution from Trump’s foundation.

Team Clinton has a high mountain to climb. First, they are hawking a case that Trump gave Bondi the donation for her 2014 re-election in exchange for not investigating Trump University.

Another reason this is gaining more traction is the $2,500 fine paid to the IRS by the foundation. Political contributions from charitable foundations are not permitted.

Bondi readily admits she solicited the donation. Trump also hosted a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in South Florida on March 14, 2014. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, GOP bigwigs, and plenty of lobbyists helped bring in the cash $3,000 at a time.

The question is simple. Did Bondi refuse to investigate Trump U in return for a donation and a fundraiser?

This is how things work in the attorney general’s office: The office takes in complaints or fields calls on the fraud hotline. The appropriate internal entity is notified.

If a sufficient number of complaints emerge, attorneys and staff do a preliminary investigation to determine if a more comprehensive investigation is required. It is at that point the deputy attorney general or attorney general often become involved.

What constitutes a “sufficient number?” That is hard to define, but in this case how many complaints were there?

By October 2013, Bondi’s office had received one complaint. Initiating a formal investigation on one complaint is not standard operating procedure. A few others were reported in 2008, two years prior to her election.

But there was a Floridian who was certain he had been defrauded. Was there a way for him to seek justice if he was truly wronged?

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump University for $40 million on August 24, 2013. Florida declined to join the suit, but said at the time the New York case would provide restitution to the Florida complainant if the plaintiffs prevailed in court.

A call to the AG’s press office to discuss these facts was not returned.

The campaign contribution came three days before the announcement Florida would not join the New York suit. The optics do not look good, but also do not prove wrongdoing. Which is why, if it were me, I would be making the case about the one complaint (at the time) and the fact the New York case is approaching its trial date.

It is often a good idea to return calls to someone who has some basic questions and understands the workings of the attorney general’s office. That is the better course, instead of having someone call the publisher inquiring what I’m up to.

Yes, I found the information with an extra hour or so of research.

Meanwhile, the calls for special prosecutors and comparisons to the email and Clinton Foundation mess will continue for the foreseeable future.

Good luck with that.

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State leaders sign off on Florida primary results

The results of Florida’s Aug. 30 primary election are now final.

The state Elections Canvassing Commission — comprising Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam  took less than two minutes to certify the results Thursday morning.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner presided over the meeting in the state Capitol. Scott, Bondi, and Putnam participated by telephone. Scott was spending the morning clearing debris Hurricane Hermine left in Tallahassee’s streets.

If the process seemed perfunctory, it was done in the interest of transparency, Detzner said.

“If someone comes and has a question or wants to have a discussion about how the results were captured, we’re happy to answer those questions,” he said. “Transparency and public access to the final part of certifying the election we think are important.”

Detzner predicted voters would flock to the polls during the Nov. 8 general election.

“We anticipate as much as 80 percent turnout,” he said. “I think the highest number in the state of Florida was 1992 — it was 82 percent. But I’m looking for a very, very large turnout.”

He expects a smooth election, as well.

“I’m confident that the supervisors [of elections] are prepared. We want to make Florida an example to the nation and the world that we know how to run elections here,” Detzner said.

There was one glitch during the primaries — Broward County released some returns before the voting was final. Detzner referred the matter to local prosecutors.

“I have not heard any follow-up from the state’s attorney’s office,” he said.

Mistakes on vote-by-mail ballots appear to be on the decline, Detzner said. Still, he urged voters to be careful.

“If they are mailing their ballots in, make sure they sign them, make sure they fill them out, make sure they put a stamp on them and put them in [the envelope].”

Mail-in ballots and early voting are extremely popular with Floridians, he said.

“They really, really like it. Some counties set records, as a matter of fact, during the primary for early voting and mail ballot voting.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 9.8.16 — The reality of our binary choice for POTUS

To begin with today, props to the Tampa Bay Times’ Anastasia Dawson for her portrayal on the very short life of Levonia Riggins, the 22-year-old black man shot and killed last week by a white Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy because … well, because they said he went for a gun when he was confronted in his bedroom at 8 a.m. by said sheriff deputy (Riggins was unarmed). And the reason why a SWAT team was banging down his door in the first place? Because twice before sheriff’s officials had purchased pot from Riggins, and they “thought” he was armed.

Back to politics.

I won’t bash NBC’s Matt Lauer today, since everyone else on the Internet has already done so regarding his performance as monitor of last night’s discussions on national security with Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump. But let me add my two cents to where these two candidates came up woefully short last night.

After watching Clinton speak in Tampa on Tuesday, I wrote that while her speech had been labeled for days as major address on national security issues, she actually spent a very short time talking about what she would do to contain ISIS, and then fired off a series of (pretty funny) ripostes on how lame Trump’s policies were (such as “His secret plan to defeat ISIS? The secret is, he has no plan.”).

What it showed, however, is that so much of what Clinton is selling is less an affirmation about her own candidacy, but how bad the other guy is. True, many candidates do that all the time (look at the Rubio vs. Murphy matchup), but Clinton’s inability to talk about her own plans was apparent when she violated the rules set down by Lauer and started bashing Trump last night. With less than 30 minutes available to talk about her foreign policy acumen (and 10 of those minutes stuck focusing on her damn emails), why did she have to resort to bashing Trump there? It looked like a lack of confidence in her own plans — which shouldn’t be the case if she’s one of the most “qualified people ever” to run for office.

As far as Trump’s performance? I’m sorry, but I thought it was nauseating to hear him praise Vladimir Putin the way he did. It was disrespectful by itself to praise the Russian leader while ripping on America’s president, but I get that Trump, like Clinton, is all about bashing his opponents. But praising Putin for having an 82 percent approval level in Russia? Wasn’t Saddam Hussein‘s poll ratings in the 90’s back in the 1990s? Embarrassing.

And his quote that “Our generals have been reduced to rubble”?  Nice.

In other news …

The man Pam Bondi defeated for attorney general six years ago, Democrat Dan Gelber, says the AG should hire an independent investigator to check out the real story behind her office’s decision not to prosecute Trump University.

The ground game for Donald Trump in Hillsborough County is finally started to emerge.

Who says there’s no bipartisanship in Florida? Patrick Murphy and David Jolly teamed up on a bill to congressional leaders on Wednesday, calling on them to end the madness and find a way to pass a bill for more funding to combat the Zika virus.

A coalition of activists want to take Amendment 1 down in Florida this November, calling it a “sham” concocted by the utility companies to turn out the light on solar power expansion in the Sunshine State.

The entire seven-member Tampa City Council has endorsed David Singer, a fellow Democrat, in the House District 60 race against Jackie Toledo.

The LIBRE Initiative is going all out in advocating for Marco Rubio‘s re-election to the U.S. Senate this fall.

And meet John Houman, aka “Mr. Manners” and the man standing between Darryl Rouson and a seat in the Florida state Senate next year.

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