New questions have arose about Trump’s donations to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s (R) campaign around the time her office chose not to investigate fraud allegations against his failed Trump University.
In addition to the $25,000 the Trump Foundation donated to a Bondi Super PAC in September 2013 just days after the Orlando Sentinel reported Bondi’s office was considering joining New York in a Trump University investigation Trump also hosted an extravagant fundraiser for Bondi at his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, the following March. The “suggested minimum contribution” to attend the event was $3,000. Although Trump did not directly donate to the campaign at that time, the event contributed significantly to Bondi’s campaign at a generous discount: Trump charges his own campaign an estimated $140,000 to rent out the space for events; the Republican Party of Florida paid less than $5,000.
Bondi’s campaign reported to The Huffington Post that the event was a “small event on the lawn featuring snacks and refreshments, attended by about 50 people.”
Meanwhile, Trump and his daughter Ivanka also both donated $500 to Bondi’s campaign in the fall of 2013. The following spring, Trump and Ivanka donated $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.
Incidentally, Trump was penalized for his $25,000 donation to Bondi. The donation came from the Trump Foundation, which, as a nonprofit, cannot make political contributions. He paid a $2,500 fine for the donation.
Gerald Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Bondi’s office, said that Bondi herself did not make the decision about not proceeding with the Trump University case, but that lower-level staffers made that choice. And Trump insisted the donations were completely related to political, not personal, reasons; according to Trump, he “never spoke to Bondi about [the donation] at all.”
However, Trump has previously been forthright about his personal gains when donating to politicians.
“I contribute to everybody,” he said in January. “I’ve given to Democrats. I’ve given to Hillary. I’ve given to everybody, because that was my job. I’ve got to give to them, because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass. It’s true.”
He made the same assertion during a Republican debate last summer. When presented with a previous statement of his, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Trump confirmed this to still be his strategy.
“When they call, I give,” he said. “And you know what When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”
In addition to Bondi, Trump has also donated to at least three other attorneys general whose offices have investigated Trump University complaints, the New York Times reported: Greg Abbott (R-Texas), Eric Schneiderman (D-N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif). The only state that has chosen to pursue charges is New York.
Donations to attorneys general is commonplace when it comes to Trump University, one former employee reported to The Huffington Post.
“All we had to do is stroke a check to the committee to re-elect [the state attorney general,]” the former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, reported. “And the problems went away.”
Trump’s questionable financial tactics long precede his connection to Bondi and other attorneys general. In the 1980s, he paid large sums of money to the New York City Council president through various channels to avoid maxing out contributions. He received several fines for exceeding allowable contribution amounts as well as lying about what these amounts really added up to.
Trump University Fraud
Many former students of the now-defunct Trump University have been unsuccessful with getting their money back. The education program did not offer degrees or credits and was not an accredited college or university. It promised to offer help from knowledgeable instructors for people wishing to pursue careers in real estate. Students reported, however, that various courses and programs they paid for never took place.
Kenneth Lafrate, a resident of Florida and former Trump University student, said he lost about $7,000, primarily for a mentoring program. For several months, Lafrate had an online mentor, who suddenly stopped answering Lafrate’s messages. According to Lafrate, he reached out to the attorney general’s office in 2008 but had no luck. Only later did he discover the connection between Bondi and Trump, at which time he gave up.
“She’s not going to do anything because she’s kind of in with [Trump],” said Lafrate, who later notified Schneiderman. Schneiderman’s office sent Lafrate “a nice letter saying that they were aggressively pursuing this.”
Complaints in Florida began before Bondi took office. Her predecessor, Bill McCollum, received complaints as well. At least two former students reported successfully obtaining refunds after filing complaints through McCollum’s office. However, one student who did receive a refund still said of the program, “It is not a real seminar, it is a scam. It is a downright scam.”