Four days after being elected Florida's next attorney general, Pam Bondi and her fiancé flew to Las Vegas to party with one of the state's most influential trial lawyers, Tampa's Jim Wilkes.
It was Wilkes' 60th birthday and, while Bondi and her fiancé, Greg Henderson, say they paid for their hotel room and airfare to Las Vegas, they relied on the Republican Party of Florida to charter a plane to get them from Las Vegas to New Orleans, where she attended a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association the next day.
Wilkes, who has made a living suing nursing homes on behalf of Medicaid and Medicare clients who have died or been injured because of negligent care, said he has known Bondi since she first began as a prosecutor in Hillsborough County. He sees no conflict with his close association with her.
Bondi, who defeated Democrat Dan Gelber in the attorney general's race on Nov. 2, generally supports the efforts of her Republican colleagues in the Legislature to limit lawsuits against Medicaid providers in an effort to curb costs.
Wilkes said, however, if legislators go too far in curbing access to the courts, the issue will be challenged. The office that must defend against that challenge is the attorney general.
``Am I nervous, yes,'' Wilkes said. ``Am I nervous that we have a Republican governor and a House and Senate who want to strip people's rights? Yes. More here.