Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was chosen Monday to head the Republican Attorneys General Association, days after several news outlets reported that the group funneled money and free travel to her while her office considered legal actions against some corporate clients of firms supporting the organization.
“It is an honor to be selected by my fellow Republican attorneys general to lead RAGA at such a critical time in our country’s history,” Bondi said on Monday after her appointment as 2014-15 chairman of the group. "We will continue to stand up for the rule of law and protect the citizens of our states,” she added.
Bondi, who turned 49 on Monday after being easily re-elected Nov. 4 to a second four-year term to the state Cabinet post, came under scrutiny last month in a New York Times investigation that examined her ties with lobbyists and a large Washington law firm that represented some corporations facing enforcement actions over consumer complaints.
Lobbying firms used the RAGA to cultivate cozy relationships with state attorneys general, including Bondi, and make large political campaign contributions, the Times reported.
RAGA raised a record $16 million this year, contributing $750,000 to Bondi’s campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported. She also accepted $25,000 in gifts of meals and travel expenses to attend RAGA events, the Tampa Bay Times and New York Times reported.
Another major contributor, the Washington law firm Dickstein Shapiro, is the subject of a state Commission on Ethics complaint filed by a Florida resident relating to Bondi’s travel.
Dickstein Shapiro “specializes in building personal relationships with state attorneys general to help corporate clients avoid becoming targets of investigation,” the Times reported.
Bondi’s aides said Monday she was “unavailable” for comment. But last Wednesday after a state Cabinet meeting she vigorously denied any relationship between RAGA contributions funded by corporate law firms and her decisions in legal matters.
“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.”
The Ethics Commission complaint filed by a central Florida retiree did not name Bondi but was directed at Bernard Nash, a partner of Dickstein Shapiro who oversees the firm’s relations with state legal officers.
The complaint says that he did not register as a lobbyist before seeking to influence Bondi’s office.
(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)