Ahhh, the first Cabinet meeting after winning re-election.
It should be a time to glory in getting confirmed for another four years, take a deep breath, and relax.
And it was all of that after Wednesday's uneventful Cabinet meeting for Gov. Rick Scott, who looked more relaxed than he has in months, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.
But it wasn't such an easy welcome back for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who faced questions stemming from a spate of stories from the New York Times, the Times/Herald and AP about a series of trips she’s taken where out-of-state lobbyists have access to her and her staff (we’re talking dinners, drinks and socializing).
But since the New York Times broke the story about how Dickstein Shapiro, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm, has lobbied Bondi at the same time a series of cases against their clients in Florida have fizzled, she’s pretty much maintained that the firm's access hasn't influenced her at all.
On Wednesday, surrounded by a clutch of reporters asking questions about her trips, Bondi stuck to that talking point.
Here’s the q and a.
Question: The optics of $51,000 of free travel in gifts, some of which potentially funneled through the Republican Attorneys General Association by a Washington law firm, whether it’s legal or not, what about the optics?
Bondi: “No lobbyists, no person, no corporation, no individual, will ever compromise what we do in our office regarding unfair and deceptive trade practices, nor how we protect the consumers of the state of florida. We will continue to protect the consumers of the state of Florida and that’s not going to change. All questions other than that have been answered.”
Question: To the average person, $51,000 (the cost of her trips to conferences) is more than they make in a year.
Bondi: You can refer to the Republican Attorneys General Association for those answers and the amount of dollars. I’m proud of what we’ve done to protect consumers. No access to me nor my staff will ever affect what we do to protect consumers of the state of Florida.
Question: The attention that this has gotten, has it surprised you? Have you learned anything about this experience?
Bondi: I wish our responses were printed in your newspaper. That’s what I wish because no access to me or my staff will ever affect what we do -- and we’ve shown that -- to protect consumers of this great state. And we will continue to fight with everything we’ve got against fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices and we will continue to do that for the next four years. We’re proud of our record and just wait and see what we have coming to protect our consumers.
Question: Were any lobbying laws broken by having these lawyers lobby (you and your staff) without being registered in Florida?
Bondi: You’re going to have to refer that to their attorneys.