Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has been in the news lately for the fact that she decided not to investigate fraud allegations against the so-called Trump University in 2013 -- funny, just days after Trump's foundation made a big donation to her reelection campaign. LGBT folks remember her, of course, for her many efforts to keep marriage equality from coming to the Sunshine State. But Bondi has taken many other actions that are, if may we use the word, deplorable. Learn all about them on the next pages.
No Adoption for Gay People!
When Bondi first ran for attorney general, in 2010, she and her opponents in the Republican primary were vying to see who could be the most conservative. John Stemberger, president of the far-right Florida Family Policy Council, questioned whether Bondi supported the state's ban on adoption by gays and lesbians -- a law enacted in 1977, when Florida orange juice pitchwoman Anita Bryant's antigay campaign was at its height. Bondi "refuses to take a position on the gay adoption ban," Stemberger said in an email endorsing one of her rivals. Indeed, at a campaign appearance Bondi had mentioned that she was friends with a same-sex couple who had adopted a child from overseas, and she called, rather vaguely, for reform of the adoption process. But when PolitiFact contacted Bondi to check out Stemberger's claim, she voiced support for the ban in no uncertain terms. "As Florida's next attorney general, I will vigorously defend Florida's law banning gay adoption in our state," said Bondi, who had worked as a prosecuting attorney in Tampa. "As a veteran prosecutor who has spent her entire career upholding the laws of this state, I have the training and experience necessary to successfully defend our laws in a courtroom." She didn't get the chance, however. In September 2010, before the election, a state appeals court struck down the ban, and then-Gov. Charlie Crist announced the state would not pursue a further appeal. The ban remained on the books, though unenforceable, for five more years; in 2015, the state legislature finally passed a bill repealing it, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law.
Soft on the Big Banks?
In 2011, her first year in office, Bondi was accused of going too easy on mortgage lenders in her investigation of whether they had misled consumers who took out home loans and later found themselves in foreclosure as the nation's housing bubble burst. "Her stance was that she didn't feel the banks were as liable as the media portrayed them to be, and people shouldn't have gone ahead and signed the mortgage paperwork, and that they knew what they were getting into," Jerry Pena of the nonprofit consumer rights group Focus told the Orlando Sentinel in December of that year. Earlier in the year, two mortgage-fraud investigators had been forced to resign from the attorney general's office, and another left "after releasing a scathing memo accusing the office's management of political influence-peddling and noting that several top lawyers had recently left for jobs with foreclosure-related companies under investigation," as the Sun Sentinel, another Florida newspaper, put it. Eventually the state reached settlement agreements with several lenders and shared in a federal settlement as well. But Florida was slow to spend its $300 million share of the federal settlement, as Bondi contended she should have sole authority to disburse the funds, with no role for the state legislature. She and lawmakers finally reached an agreement that the legislature would have control. And -- credit where it's due -- she did get legislators to promise that most of the money would go to housing instead of other state programs.
Supporting Arizona's Immigration Law
Another sunny state, Arizona, made big news in 2010 when it passed a law that, among other things, allowed police to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws -- for instance, during traffic stops -- if the officer had a "reasonable suspicion" the person was an undocumented immigrant. Opponents of the law said it would encourage racial profiling, and they challenged the statute all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bondi, however, joined a coalition of state attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the law. "I'm not saying Florida is in an identical situation, but I did sign on to an amicus, and I will continue to sign on to an amicus brief when they affect states' rights," Bondi said in 2012. That year, the Supreme Court let the "papers, please" portion of the law stand, while striking down several other provisions.
Postponing an Execution -- for a Campaign Fundraiser
This one leaves us nearly speechless. Bondi vociferously supports the death penalty and its timely application, but in the fall of 2013, she persuaded Gov. Scott to postpone the execution of murderer Marshall Lee Gore -- because it was scheduled the same night as a fundraising party kicking off her reelection campaign. Scott claimed he didn't know why Bondi wanted the postponement, and she later said she was wrong to request it. But postponed it was, for three weeks, costing taxpayers an extra $1,000 to keep Gore on death row. Campaign finance reform advocate David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund, was quick to denounce Bondi's action. "Wherever one stands on the death penalty, there isn't anyone in America that believes an execution should be postponed for political fundraising," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "That Pam Bondi requested a delay in this execution shows how the nonstop chase for campaign cash has hollowed out the morality of our political system. Her moral compass is broken."
That Troublesome Trump Donation
Also in the fall of 2013 came that $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation to Bondi's reelection campaign. The foundation made the contribution just a few days after it was announced that the Florida attorney general's office was looking into allegations that Trump University did not provide the level of education it promised and therefore bilked students of their money; the now-defunct business school is the subject of a still-ongoing class action lawsuit from New York. A few days after receiving the donation, Bondi decided that Florida would not pursue an investigation of Trump University. (A spokesman for Bondi said she didn't know her staff was reviewing complaints against the school.) She and Trump have told different stories about how the donation came to be made; she said she personally solicited it, while he said he never spoke to her about it and just spontaneously decided on the contribution. Furthermore, the Trump Foundation's status as a charitable organization means it's breaking federal law by making campaign contributions. Trump has said the money came from the foundation because of a "clerical error" and reportedly reimbursed the foundation with personal funds.
Fighting Marriage Equality: "I Am Just Getting Started"
Bondi was second to none in her effort to keep marriage equality from coming to her state. In May 2014, in a legal brief responding to a lawsuit seeking to strike down Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, she said a preliminary injunction stopping enforcement of the ban "would impose significant public harm." That unleashed a torrent of condemnation on Bondi, but her defenders said the statement was taken out of context -- that enjoining the enforcement of any state law would be disruptive. Her backers also said it was her duty to defend her state's laws -- never mind that officials in several other states had declined to defend similar bans. In the same brief, Bondi said that Florida's marriage laws "have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society's legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units." Bondi's critics called her not just wrong but hypocritical, given that her first two marriages ended in divorce. She kept up the fight, though; in August 2014, at a Republican event, she said, "I am just getting started." That came shortly after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had ruled the marriage ban unconstitutional, and three state-level judges had done the same in separate cases. Bondi appealed them all, but in December of that year, a federal appeals court ruled that Hinkle's decision could go into effect the following month, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined Bondi's request to delay the effective date -- and marriage equality came to Florida almost six months ahead of the rest of the nation.
A Champion of LGBT People?
Despite all her efforts against marriage equality, in the wake of the mass shooting at the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando last June, Bondi characterized herself as a friend to LGBT people and promised to use the full extent of the law to go after anyone who attacked them. She made the statement in an interview with out CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who quickly challenged her. "Do you really think you're a champion of the gay community?" he said, and she responded that she was just doing her duty in defending Florida's marriage ban, again ignoring the fact that officials in other states decided not to defend similar laws. Cooper also noted that she spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money" in fighting marriage equality. She claimed the interview was deceptively edited and that Cooper was unfair in bringing up her marriage equality record, as the interview was supposed to be about donations to those affected by the tragedy and how to distinguish legitimate charities from fraudulent ones. Cooper responded by saying, "I don't think it is unfair to look at their record and see if they've spoken that way publicly before, which I never heard her say. ... Ms. Bondi is championing efforts to help survivors, but the very right that allows gay spouses to bury their loved ones, that's a right that wouldn't exist if she had her way. I think it is fair to ask about that. There is an irony in that."
"Lock Her Up. I Love That"
And last, but far from least: Bondi is a strong supporter of Trump's presidential bid, and she has no objections to some of the incendiary rhetoric that the candidate and his backers engage in. For instance, Trump supporters frequently chant "Lock her up" regarding his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton (not that she's been charged with any crime), and Trump has expressed agreement with them. And in a speech at this year's Republican National Convention, Bondi did too. "Lock her up. I love that," she said.