Last week, the Alligator published an editorial about Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s close ties to the Republican Attorneys General Association — RAGA. The organization is heavily supported by donations from interest groups supporting large corporations and from corporations themselves. RAGA has handsomely repaid the investments made by these corporate groups, fighting against environmental protections, financial regulations and labor rights, all of which threaten corporate profits.
During the 2014 campaign cycle, RAGA donated more than $750,000 to Bondi’s re-election campaign. The group also provided her with free trips to conferences at high-class resorts in Hawaii and California. Reuters reported that all this occurred while Bondi’s office “considered legal actions against some corporate clients of firms supporting (RAGA).”
Now, Bondi has taken her corrupt relationship with RAGA to the next level by becoming the group’s chair. In announcing her new position, Bondi promised that RAGA would “continue to stand up for the rule of law and protect the citizens of our states.”
Bondi has vigorously denied that any lobbyist or corporation would influence her decisions as attorney general.
“No lobbyist, no person, no corporation, no individual will ever compromise what we do in our office,” she said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done to protect consumers.”
Bondi must be forgetting about the ongoing investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics into her office’s relationship with Washington law firm Dickstein Shapiro.
The New York Times reported that Dickstein Shapiro, which has contributed to RAGA, “specializes in building personal relationships with state attorneys general to help corporate clients avoid becoming targets of investigation.” The complaint alleges that a representative of Dickstein Shapiro failed to register as a lobbyist before attempting to influence Bondi’s office.
Bondi’s claim that her office is free from corporate influence is dubious, to say the least. Even if her assertions are true, the unmistakable appearance of rampant corruption and corporate influence in Bondi’s office is shameful and unbecoming of someone who claims to treasure morality and the rule of law.
The truth is that Bondi owes her re-election in large part to the donations from RAGA. Her Democratic opponent, George Sheldon, was massively underfunded and essentially hung out to dry by the Florida Democratic Party. Even so, Sheldon received 42 percent of the vote to Bondi’s 55 percent. In a race where both candidates had equivalent — or at least similar — financial resources, the outcome might have been much different.
Now that she has been re-elected, Florida voters shouldn’t be surprised if Bondi spends more time serving the interests of her corporate donors than she does supporting and upholding the Florida Constitution. Those corporations expect continuing returns on their investment, and Bondi’s enthusiasm for leading RAGA suggests she is eager to provide them.
[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 11/19/2014]