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Pam Bondi’s March evasion on Donald Trump contribution becomes June admission

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Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s admission this week that she personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump comes months after she evaded questions about it.

That was in March, when — instead of directly answering — Bondi said she “hadn’t heard” about Trump’s representatives saying she asked for the money.

The recent revelation came from Bondi’s spokesman to The Associated Press, according to a Monday story. Trump is now the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president, and Bondi has endorsed him.

The question is whether there was a quid pro quo.

The $25,000 contribution came from Trump’s charitable foundation on Sept. 17, 2013 — “four days after Bondi’s office publicly announced she was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University’s activities,” according to a 2013 report in the Orlando Sentinel, the AP story said.

But “after the check came in, Bondi’s office nixed suing Trump, citing insufficient grounds to proceed,” the AP reported. Bondi eventually was elected to a second term in 2014.

Bondi’s office has said it received only one consumer complaint about Trump University at the time and she decided not to join the New York investigation.

After a March 29 Cabinet meeting, the Republican Bondi was asked by reporters to clarify her role in the contribution — and declined to do so, even making a joke about it.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Michael Auslen told her he “wanted to ask about the Trump contribution from a couple of years ago,” to which Bondi smiled and said, “Still?”

She went on, “The Trump campaign has acknowledged the error was on their end, and they’re correcting it … I’m going to let the accountants correct it.”

Foundations like Trump’s are banned under federal rules from political activity, including giving contributions.

Trump’s representatives said the $25,000 check went out by mistake when an accounting clerk confused Bondi’s electioneering communications organization, now defunct, with a similarly named group.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, filed a complaint against Trump’s foundation, saying it violated its tax-exempt status for making the contribution.

She said “of course not” when asked whether she knew the donation was a violation of IRS rules.

AP reporter Gary Fineout, in that same March “media availability,” said what he was “confused about is that now … the Trump campaign is saying that you solicited the donation, that that’s what created the confusion.”

“I haven’t heard that at all,” Bondi said. “I’m going to let the accountants …”

Fineout broke in, “Well, but the organization that filed the IRS complaint, they’re asking if it came from you.”

Bondi again refused to answer.

“I’m going to let the accountants handle this,” she said. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump foundation treasurer, told The Washington Post in March that a “check got cut, and after that, I don’t know exactly where it ended up.”

“It must have gone, I guess, to Pam Bondi,” he said. “We spoke to our accountants, our tax attorneys in Washington, and they say these things happen all the time.”

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.

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