What We Know About The Trump Foundation's Donation to Florida AG Pam Bondi's Fundraisers
Trump's foundation sent a check to Pam Bondi's fundraising group in 2013.
— -- Donald Trump has accused Hillary Clinton of using her position in the State Department to provide favors for donors to the Clinton Foundation, but one of his charitable organization’s past donations has also raised questions.
The questions center on a $25,000 check the Donald J. Trump Foundation sent to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s fundraising committee in 2013. Critics say the money looked like a way to persuade Bondi’s office not to join a lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University, which Trump and Bondi deny.
Here is what we know:
Timeline of What Happened in 2013
Schneiderman's lawsuit accused Trump of “mis[leading] consumers into paying for a series of expensive courses that did not deliver on their promises,” which Trump denied.
On Sept. 11, 2013, a spokeswoman for Bondi’s office confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that her office was reviewing the New York lawsuit. Her office now tells ABC News its review was to determine if the allegations in the New York complaint had any relevance to Florida.
A few days later, Bondi’s political fundraising group, And Justice for All, confirmed that it had received a check for $25,000 on Sept. 17, 2013, from the Trump Foundation. Bondi would be up for re-election in 2014. The check, obtained by The New York Times, shows Trump signed it on Sept. 9, 2013, before Bondi's office said that it was reviewing the New York lawsuit.
Florida's Office of the Attorney General had received multiple consumer complaints about Trump-related seminars and education programs, most of them before Bondi was elected as the state's top prosecutor in 2010. But in mid-October of 2013 the Miami Herald reported that Bondi's spokeswoman had said no action would be necessary because the affected Florida consumers would be compensated if Schneiderman won his lawsuit.
Bondi has denied that her office’s decision not to join the lawsuit against Trump University had anything to do with the money sent to her fundraising group by the Trump Foundation.
"I never, nor was my office, investigating him. Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I've been obviously devastated over this," she said in a voice mail message that The Tampa Bay Times said she left with one of its reporters this past June.
Bondi was unaware of the consumer complaints against Trump University when she reached out to the business mogul for a donation, according to Marc Reichelderfer, Bondi’s political consultant on her 2013 re-election campaign.
Bondi’s phone call with Donald Trump occurred “several weeks” before her office said it was considering whether to join the Trump University lawsuit, Reichelderfer told The Associated Press.
Trump has said he “never” discussed the lawsuit with Bondi when she called him for a donation.
“She’s a fine person. Never spoke to her about it at all. Never.” Trump said, taking questions from reporters Monday on his private plane. “Many of the attorney generals [sic] turned that case down because I'll win that case in court."
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told “Good Morning America” today that Trump and Bondi "may have talked about anything” in their phone conversation.
Why the Cause for Concern?
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is a charity, so it is prohibited under tax law from making political contributions to any candidate running for public office.
“People today are looking for leadership, the kind that Mr. Trump offers, that’s unafraid to tell it like it is and will do something about renewing America’s strength and greatness,” Bondi said. “That’s why I am pleased to announce my support of Donald Trump for President. We have been friends for years, and I know his family personally. I’ve seen first-hand how he leads, and how he cares deeply about the people of this country.”
Even though Trump and Bondi have said there was no wrongdoing, there have been calls for an investigation of the 2013 donation.
Aside from any question over whether the donation was an attempt to influence Bondi, federal tax law prohibits charitable foundations from making political contributions to any candidate running for public office. The IRS slapped a $2,500 penalty on the Trump Foundation this year for violating the law through its donation to Bondi's campaign group, according to the Washington Post. Trump Organization officials told the Post that the donation to Bondi's political fundraising committee was the result of a clerical error and that Trump paid the IRS penalty himself as well as reimbursing his foundation the $25,000.
The advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, chaired by a prominent Clinton backer, also filed a complaint today, requesting the IRS investigate the Trump Foundation’s contribution to Bondi.
The Associated Press and ABC News’ Josh Haskell and Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: For clarification, this story has been updated to reflect that the Florida Attorney General’s Office says it reviewed the New York lawsuit against Trump University to determine if the allegations in that complaint contained any relevance for Florida, not to join the other state’s suit.