TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Rick Scott has assigned a state attorney to investigate a complaint against Attorney General Pam Bondi over a $25,000 donation made to her PAC by President-elect Donald Trump.
The complaint, that the attorney general may have ditched thoughts of joining an investigation into Trump University’s Florida offshoot, Trump Institute, in return for the contribution, is one of a number Bondi faces at both state and federal level.
Florida attorney general Pam Bondi | Courtesy of the Office of the Florida Attorney General
Massachusetts-based criminal attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee, who has already filed complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics, the Florida Elections Commission and Florida Bar, said he wants to know if there is any potential criminal wrongdoing in connection with the donation, which was delivered in September 2013.
Larrabee, based in Boston, appears to be the only complainant against Bondi at the state level. She faces various federal investigations.
Larrabee told the Florida Record he first complained to the State Attorney Mark Ober in the Tampa area, where Bondi has her political offices. Ober declined to handle the complaint, claiming a conflict of interest as the attorney he used to work with the attorney general.
In September, Ober asked Scott to assign another attorney to the case. Scott did so two days before Christmas, announcing that southwest Florida State Attorney Stephen Russell will investigate and that he has a year to find out whether the complaint has any merit.
Larrabee said he is not aligned to any political party and has no particular link to Florida.
Like most people, he read about the donation and the potential link to Trump’s university, which at the time was under investigation by the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“I was determined to file a complaint because there is a possibility of a violation of the integrity of our political system.” the attorney said.
Larrabee said he was unable to file any complaint against Trump because, as a then private citizen, the statute of limitations had expired on any attempt to investigate. As a public official, Bondi can still be prosecuted two years after she leaves office.
The investigations stem from a donation close to a point where it appeared Bondi's office was contemplating joining the New York attorney general to look at complaints at the self-styled university.
On Sept. 17, 2013, her office told the Orlando Sentinel it was considering joining the action. Three days later, the check was sent to the PAC.
“I never, nor was my office, investigating him," Bondi told the Miami Herald. "Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I’ve been obviously devastated over this.”
A political consultant who worked on Bondi’s 2014 election campaign said the attorney general personally solicited the donation.
The donation is also controversial as it came from the Trump Foundation, a charity. That violated IRS rules and Trump had to pay a penalty.