New York AG sets sight on Bondi
By: Jim Williams – Washington Bureau Chief News Talk Florida
WASHINGTON – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is in the middle of a story that will not only go away but seems to keep growing by the day. Yesterday, the New York’s attorney general started a what is expected to be an extensive investigating Republican nominee Donald Trump’s charity to determine whether it has abided by state laws governing nonprofits.
For those who don’t know the New York AG, his name is Eric Schneiderman and he told CNN Tuesday that his office had been investigating the Trump Foundation over concerns the foundation “may have engaged in some impropriety.”
As you might expect the Trump campaign, was quick to respond to the notation of being investigated by the New York AG. The campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement that Schneiderman, a Democrat who has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, is a “partisan hack” and the investigation is “another left-wing hit job.”
But Schneiderman is not alone in his interest in the comments as the House Democrats are calling for a federal criminal investigation of an improper $25,000 donation Trump’s charity made in 2013 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after Bondi’s office said it was weighing legal action against Trump University.
The Associated Press first reported in June, Bondi personally solicited the money during a 2013 phone call that came after her office received complaints from former students claiming they were scammed by Trump’s namesake get-rich-quick real estate seminars.
According to Schneiderman, “My interest in this issue really is in my capacity as regulator of nonprofits in New York state. And we have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view,” the elected Democratic official said.
He added: “We have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws that govern charities in New York.” He did not elaborate on what wrongdoing Trump’s nonprofit might have committed.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation check arrived just days after Bondi’s office told a newspaper that it was reviewing a lawsuit against Trump University filed by Schneiderman. Bondi’s office never sued Trump, though she denies his donation played any role in that decision.
The Republican presidential nominee later paid a $2,500 fine over the check from his foundation because it violated federal law barring charities from making political contributions.
Trump has accused Clinton of being corrupted by donors to the Clinton Foundation global charity founded by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, while she was U.S. secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Clinton has dismissed Trump’s allegation as a political smear. There has been no evidence that foreign donors to the foundation obtained favors from the State Department while Clinton headed the agency.
In a letter that all 16 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, ranking member John Conyers of Michigan said federal investigators should determine whether the 2013 donation and Bondi’s decision not to join the New York lawsuit violated federal bribery or tax laws.
Bondi has endorsed Trump’s presidential bid and has appeared with him this year on the campaign trail.
The 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 licensed the Trump 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.
Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed to AP that Trump and Bondi spoke before his charity donated to a group supporting her candidacy, but says they didn’t discuss any potential lawsuit. Neither Trump’s or Bondi’s spokespeople has responded to questions about what the two did discuss, or provided the exact date of the call.
Trump’s campaign has said the improper foundation check to support Bondi’s re-election was the result of a series of clerical errors, and that the billionaire businessman had intended to support Bondi with personal funds.
The Trump Foundation on its 2013 tax return then incorrectly reported that the $25,000 was paid not to the pro-Bondi political group, but to a similarly named charity in Kansas that got no Trump money.
The Washington Post first reported that Trump’s charity paid an IRS penalty of $2,500 earlier this year, following media reports about the impermissible 2013 donation.
Trump’s foundation, which for years has been funded by money the billionaire businessman raises from others rather than his own cash, has come under increasing scrutiny following reports by the Post, AP and others.
In May, the Post reported that most of the $6 million Trump said he raised for veteran’s groups at a highly publicized January event wasn’t distributed until the newspaper began asking questions. After his campaign released a list of groups receiving about $5.6 million, about half of the 30 reached by AP said they’d received checks around the time of Trump’s May 24 Post interview.
In an extensive review earlier this month, the Post found four charities that said they never received money even though the Trump Foundation reported making donations to them.
A New Yorker, Trump owns a Florida home as well as resorts and golf courses in the state. Records show he has made $253,500 in political donations there since 1999, most of it going to Republican candidates, the state party or GOP committees.
His daughter, Ivanka Trump, gave a $500 personal check to Bondi a week before her father’s charity money came in, as well as another $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida the following year.
Donald Trump also hosted a March 2014 fundraiser for Bondi on the lawn of his palatial Mar-a-Lago Club. Attendees were asked to give the $3,000 maximum individual donation allowed under state law.
Records show that Bondi’s re-election campaign received 24 checks totaling $57,000 on the date of the Trump fundraiser. Justice for All, the political committee supporting Bondi, also took in $30,000 that day.
Throughout this ordeal both Bondi and Trump has said there has been no wrongdoing.
VIDEO FROM THE PBS NEW HOUR