From Vanity Fair (September 6, 2016):
Donald Trump has long boasted that his past political contributions have given him unique insight into the way Washington is rigged. “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me,” he bragged during the first presidential debate. Trump’s candor won him fans, and burnished the billionaire’s claim to be the one candidate who both understands how the donor-donee relationship really works while not being beholden to donors himself.
Now, with just two months until Election Day, the Republican presidential nominee’s claims to have worked the system to his advantage are coming back to haunt him. Over the Labor Day weekend, Trump faced renewed questioning about why his family foundation had donated $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013—in violation of federal rules preventing foundations from donating to political candidates—at the same time that her office was considering whether to investigate Trump University for alleged fraud. Bondi, according to reporting by the Associated Press in July, “personally solicited” the political contribution, just before she declined to move forward with the Trump University case.
Speaking to reporters in Ohio on Monday, Trump fervently denied ever having spoken to Bondi directly. “I never spoke to her, first of all. She’s a fine person, beyond reproach. I never even spoke to her about it at all. She’s a fine person. Never spoken to her about it, never,” Trump said, according to the Washington Post.
Today (September 7, 2016) from Vanity Fair:
For all his talk about being a straight shooter, Donald Trump and his campaign were surprisingly evasive on Tuesday as they walked back the Republican nominee’s claim that he “never spoke” to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi about the $25,000 contribution his family foundation made to her re-election campaign in 2013, shortly before she declined to pursue an investigation into alleged fraud at Trump University. Confronted with a contradictory statement, however, by a Bondi aide who previously said that the attorney general had personally solicited Trump for the contribution, the Trump campaign spun to reconcile the two accounts.
“[Trump’s] comments were in reference to any discussion about Trump University—not the donation,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Politico, admitting that the two may have spoken, but not about the major investigation that was then hanging over Trump’s head. As for what Trump did discuss with Bondi, Hicks was unable to say. “I don’t think this was a lengthy, memorable call,” she told the Associated Press. “Mr. Trump talks to a hundred people in any given day.”
From THE HUFFINGTON POST:
WASHINGTON ― In March 2014, Donald Trump opened his 126-room Palm Beach mansion, Mar-a-Lago, for a $3,000-per-person fundraiser for Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who had recently decided not to join a lawsuit against Trump University and was facing a tough reelection campaign.
Trump did not write a check to the attorney general that night. The previous fall, his personal foundation had given $25,000 to a pro-Bondi PAC. But by hosting her fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago and bringing in some of his own star power, Trump provided Bondi’s campaign with a nice financial boost.
In addition to the $25,000 donation from his foundation and the star-studded Mar-a-Lago event, Trump and his daughter Ivanka each gave $500 to Bondi’s campaign in the fall of 2013. The following spring, Ivanka and her father donated another $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida ― Bondi’s single biggest source of campaign funds.
Allegations of fraud by Trump University and its predecessor Trump Institute began before Bondi took office in 2011. The previous Florida attorney general, Bill McCollum, had received numerous complaints from attendees of Trump’s real estate programs.
Carol Minto of Connecticut said the Trump Institute, which is based in Florida, refused to honor her refund. She reported the matter to the attorneys general of both Florida and Connecticut, but only heard back from the latter, who helped her get her money back.
When Bondi was elected attorney general, the broader question of what to do about all the Trump Institute complaints ― and whether Florida could or should join pending lawsuits ― had yet to be resolved. As late as Sept. 14, 2013, Bondi’s spokesman said that the office was reviewing the allegations “to see if they have any relevance in Florida.”
But around that time, Bondi personally solicited Trump for a political donation. On Sept. 17, the real estate mogul’s charitable foundation wrote the $25,000 check to the Bondi-backing PAC named And Justice For All.
Florida resident Kenneth Lafrate claims that the Trump Institute scammed him out of roughly $7,000, most of which paid for a mentoring program. […] Lafrate contacted the Florida attorney general’s office as early as 2008 but said he did not receive a response.
Lafrate said he also notified the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed a consumer fraud suit against Trump in 2013, and received “a nice letter saying that they were aggressively pursuing this.”
And then there’s this, from CBS News (June 5, 2016):
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
Owens, now retired, said his team had built a solid case against the now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee, but was told to drop it after Trump’s company agreed to cease operations in Texas.
Owens said he was so surprised at the order to stand down he made a copy of the case file and took it home.
“It had to be political in my mind because Donald Trump was treated differently than any other similarly situated scam artist in the 16 years I was at the consumer protection office,” said Owens, who lives in Houston.
Owens’ boss at the time was then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is now the state’s GOP governor.
The Associated Press first reported Thursday that Trump gave donations totaling $35,000 to Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign three years after his office closed the Trump U case. Several Texas media outlets then reported Owens’ accusation that the probe was dropped for political reasons.
Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said Friday that the governor had played no role in ending the case against Trump, a decision he said was made farther down the chain of command.
But no worries, kids. From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer argued Tuesday that there was nothing untoward about Donald Trump donating $25,000 to Florida’s attorney general shortly before she decided against launching a fraud investigation into his Trump University.
Asked on CNN if Trump’s donation to a political committee focused on re-electing Republican Pam Bondi amounted to a “pay-to-play” scheme, Spicer replied, “Not at all.”“There were 48 other attorneys general that didn’t investigate this,” he continued. “The only one that did was Eric Schneiderman, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter. Of all of the 50 states where this was brought up, only one state pursued it, New York, a close ally of Hillary Clinton.”Schneiderman’s office launched a fraud investigation against Trump University in 2013 when, as the attorney general previously told CNN, he had “no idea” Trump was going to run for president.
The New York Democrat, who has endorsed Clinton, has forcefully criticized the program as a “fraud from beginning to end,” saying that students were defrauded out of tens of thousands of dollars for classes that were effectively worthless.