Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is denying that a $25,000 donation from Donald Trump is in any way connected to her office’s decision not to pursue action against Trump University, despite dozens of complaints in Florida, her spokesman said.
Bondi, who endorsed Trump in March, received the donation in 2013 via a political action committee raising money for her re-election.
The donation came from one of Trump’s charities six days after Bondi’s then-spokeswoman told a reporter their office was “currently reviewing the allegations” against Trump University in a class action lawsuit in New York, according to internal emails that were among more than 8,000 pages of documents originally requested by The Orlando Sentinel and also obtained by CNN.
Florida never pursued any investigation or action against Trump or his university.
“While there was never an investigation, staff, doing due diligence, reviewed the complaints and the New York litigation and made the proper determination that the New York litigation would provide relief to aggrieved consumers nationwide,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray told CNN.
In a follow-up statement released on Tuesday, Bondi said her office has “made public every document on this issue, which shows no one in my office ever opened an investigation on Trump University nor was there a basis for doing so. Any news story that suggests otherwise is completely false.”
Bondi’s request for a donation was in the time period of August and September of 2013, said Marc Reichelderfer, a former Bondi campaign consultant.
“It wasn’t just Donald Trump. She was actively campaigning for re-election and asking for support from friends and supporters,” Reichelderfer told CNN.
Since 2008, more than 20 customers have filed complaints against an affiliate of Trump University. Three more were filed against Trump University since then in 2011, 2013 and 2014, according to the records reviewed by CNN.
Bondi took office in 2011.
At the time of Bondi’s request for a donation from Trump, Ray said she was unaware of the one new complaint on file with her office.
“I can tell you from this office she had no idea that we had received a complaint about Donald Trump. That wasn’t even on her radar,” Ray said.
The complaints show several unsatisfied customers called the course a “scam” and one man claimed it forced him in to personal bankruptcy.
The Trump University lawsuits have become a surprising quagmire for Trump, not just because of the lawsuits – which resulted in the release of highly sensitive internal marketing materials which laid out their high-pressure sales plans – but because of Trump’s own blasts against the federal judge overseeing one of the cases, Gonzalo Curiel.
“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday.
But the Trump University complaints have also proven tricky for Republicans such as Bondi who oversaw offices tasked with investigating and prosecuting consumer fraud.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office claimed a victory against Trump this week after Trump University folded up shop in Texas, facing a possible $5.4 million penalty there. But Abbott, who was Texas’ attorney general at the time, did not claim that victory until after a former deputy under him accused him of blocking a lawsuit against Trump.