July 20, 2016

Take a peek at what Rick Scott and Pam Bondi plan to say at GOP convention

@PatriciaMazzei

CLEVELAND -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott gets first billing Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, followed a bit later in the night -- when likely more viewers will be watching -- by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Here are excerpts of what they plan to say, provided by convention organizers:

Scott will speak about the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando "and the growing worldwide threat of Islamic extremism":

“I cried with the grieving moms and dads and brothers and sisters of the 49 people slaughtered by an ISIS-inspired terrorist. This war is real. It is here in America. And the next president must destroy this evil. Donald Trump is the man for that job.”

“Today, America is in terrible, world-record-high debt. Our economy is not growing. Our jobs are going overseas. We have allowed our military to decay, and we project weakness on the international stage. Washington grows while the rest of America struggles. The Democrats have not led us to a crossroads, they have led us to a cliff.”

Bondi will focus on "restoring the rule of law":

“Hillary will stack the Supreme Court with liberal justices who will allow government to continue its rampage against our individual rights with utter contempt for our Second Amendment.

“I know Donald, and he will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution. Are you ready to send ISIS a message that we’re really coming after them? When Donald Trump is president, he will.”

July 14, 2016

Pam Bondi gets prime-time speaking slot at GOP convention

via @stevebousquet

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose ties to Donald Trump have been a source of controversy, will have a prime-time speaking appearance at next week’s Republican National Convention.

Bondi is scheduled to give a five-minute address at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on the subject of law enforcement.

Gov. Rick Scott is also expected to speak, as well as former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.

The exposure on all three major cable networks offers an opening for Bondi’s critics to launch a new wave of attacks over her connections to Trump.

As the state’s chief legal officer, Bondi is the target of ethics complaints over her solicitation of a $25,000 campaign contribution from Trump in 2013. At that time, her office said, two complaints were on file against Trump University, a for-profit real estate school that’s the subject of hundreds of complaints and nationwide class action lawsuits in California and New York.

Bondi decided not to open an investigation of Trump University and urged complaints be filed with New York, which had already launched a probe of the school.

“No one in my office ever opened an investigation on Trump University nor was there a basis for doing so,” Bondi said last month. “I have spent my career prosecuting criminals and protecting Floridians.”

More here.

July 06, 2016

D.C. ethics group wants investigation into Bondi's actions on Trump University

@JeremySWallace

A government watchdog group is calling for a pair of state investigations into whether Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have violated the law by not taking action on complaints related to Trump University in 2013.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed requests - but not formal complaints - with both the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Inspector General for the Attorney General’s office to dig into what they call “murky” details about Bondi’s decision not to investigate complaints against Trump University, the Trump Institute and related entities.

More than 20 complaints have been filed against Trump University, the Trump Institute and related entities in Florida. But CREW’s executive director Noah Bookbinder noted that a month after New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuits against Trump University in August 2013 based on similar complaints, Bondi received a $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation into a political committee she controls called Justice For All.

In his letter to the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Inspector General, Bookbinder said the timeline of events suggests a line between the donation and the attorney general’s office’s decisions.

“The apparent timing of decisions not to take legal action against Trump University or the Trump Institute are deeply concerning,” Bookbinder said.  “The Inspector General and the Commission on Ethics should immediately commence investigations to get to the bottom of this.”

Bondi has in past interviews denied her office was investigating Trump and that she dropped the investigation after the donation.

“I never, nor was my office, investigating him. Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I've been obviously devastated over this," Bondi said last month.

A spokesman for Bondi did not respond to request for comment in regards to CREW’s actions on Wednesday.

In March, CREW also filed an IRS complaint against the Trump Foundation for making the donation.

 

Orlando gun claims led PolitiFact Florida in June 2016

OrlandovigilAP

The shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando in which a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens of others led to a series of claims by politicians about guns and violence.

It also led to a testy interview between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi about her past actions related to fighting same-sex marriage.

Here's a recap of PolitiFact Florida's most clicked-on reports in June.

Photo of Orlando vigil by Associated Press.

June 21, 2016

LGBT rights activists want Rick Scott to sign anti-discrimination rules after Orlando shooting

@MichaelAuslen

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A week after a gunman killed 49 people inside an Orlando gay nightclub, advocacy groups want new protections enacted to protect LGBT Floridians.

Equality Florida, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has long pushed for state anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a move that could presage more forceful action when the state Legislature returns to Tallahassee next year, the group’s lobbyist, Carlos Guillermo Smith, called on Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to act now — without lawmakers’ involvement.

“Gov. Rick Scott and Pam Bondi could issue an executive order today with the stroke of a simple pen that would forbid and make illegal anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our state,” said Smith, a Democrat also running for the Florida House, in an interview Sunday on MSNBC.

State law does not protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

For 10 years, lawmakers have proposed expanding Florida’s civil rights protections, but their attempts have never reached a floor vote either chamber of the state Legislature. This spring, the proposal achieved a small victory: its first-ever committee hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the bill but did not approve it.

Asked whether he would support anti-discrimination protections, the governor’s office reiterated comments Scott made Monday when reporters pressed him on his gay-rights record.

“Right now what I want to focus on is how do we make sure that we love everybody impacted: the gay community, the Hispanic community,” he said. “But let’s all remember this was an attack on our entire nation.”

He did not say whether he intends to push for additional protections of LGBT groups.

However, Scott could not extend full anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people in hiring, housing and public accommodations by executive order.

In an interview with the Times/Herald on Tuesday, Smith said he wants Scott and Bondi to enact narrower, more immediate change: executive action to protect state workers and government contractors.

This would be within the governor’s powers. Early in his first term, Scott issued an executive order requiring state workers to be randomly drug tested, although that was later struck down by a judge.

Cabinet officials could set similar rules within their offices. Bondi already has done this, spokeswoman Kylie Mason said.

“The Attorney General does not have the authority to issue an executive order,” she said in a statement. “However, our office already has a policy in place against discrimination based on sexual preference.”

Some groups criticized Smith for pushing Equality Florida’s agenda so soon after the shooting at Pulse nightclub. The Florida Family Policy Council, which advocates for social conservatives and largely opposes LGBT-rights groups’ agenda, tweeted Tuesday morning that Equality Florida is “politicizing tragedy.”

Since the attack, Scott and Bondi have both issued statements supportive of the state’s LGBT community.

“We pray for our LGBT community,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “Our Hispanic community. Our state. Our nation. This was an attack on every American.”

But during more than five years in office, neither Republican official has taken up the mantle of gay rights.

Bondi fought and lost a court battle to uphold a same-sex marriage ban, spending $493,000 in taxpayer funds in the process. Scott’s administration is in the process of removing proposed protections for LGBT foster children in group homes from state rules.

LGBT-rights advocates hope recent well wishes could turn into political action when the Legislature is in session next year.

Equality Florida’s wish list includes not only anti-discrimination laws but also expanding the definition of hate crimes to include transgender people and banning so-called conversion therapy.

Smith said the group has requested a meeting with Scott and Bondi to discuss its agenda.

Photo by Eve Edelheit, Tampa Bay Times.

June 17, 2016

PolitiFact looks at the Anderson Cooper-Pam Bondi faceoff

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An interview in Orlando between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on June 14 has gone viral, due to Cooper’s aggressive questioning about her record on gay and lesbian issues.

Many social media users who shared the clip of the interview thought Bondi seemed defensive under Cooper’s pointed questioning. Cooper asked her about her opposition to same-sex marriage and what that meant to the loved ones of the 49 dead after the attack on a gay nightclub.

After the interview went viral, matters between Bondi and Cooper got testy, as both accused each other of mistaken facts and lack of context.

Ultimately, though, it appears that Cooper and Bondi have been talking past each other. We didn’t find any obvious inaccuracies about what either side was saying.

Here’s a recap from PolitiFact Florida.

June 16, 2016

Pam Bondi on Fox News: Anderson Cooper 'basically mocked me'

Foxnfriends

@ByKristenMClark

The feud between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and CNN host Anderson Cooper continues to escalate, with Bondi taking advantage of favorable media to criticize Cooper for his scrutinizing interview of her two days ago.

Bondi appeared Thursday morning on the Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" morning show to repeat her claims that Cooper interviewed her under false pretenses -- accusations that Cooper said Wednesday night weren't true.

"Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy remarked that Bondi was "clearly blindsided" by Cooper's "political attack," and the network referred to it as both an "interview ambush" and a "bait and switch."

"He just flipped on me," Bondi said on "Fox & Friends" — again accusing Cooper of inciting "anger and hatred," although she also called him a "champion of the LGBT community."

Bondi’s office on Thursday did not respond to a request from the Herald/Times for comment about Cooper’s response to her claims, but she told Fox News: "The interview is what it is."

She added that she felt Cooper "cut me off" and "basically mocked me" for saying repeatedly that she wanted to "focus on unity and love" after the Orlando shooting.

Full details here on their back and forth over the past two days.

Plaintiff in Florida gay marriage case 'dismayed' by Pam Bondi's comments on CNN

@ByKristenMClark

One of the plaintiffs in Florida’s previous same-sex marriage fight is calling out Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi for her answers to CNN's Anderson Cooper in a now-viral interview that aired live Tuesday.

Christian Ulvert wrote in a letter to Bondi that he was "dismayed by the response you offered to Mr. Cooper regarding your efforts in your relentless fight against the LGBT community."

Bondi had told Cooper she was doing what her job required her to do: "Uphold the Constitution of the state of Florida," she said.

"Instead of following the lead of other attorneys general, you decided to fight the case," wrote Ulvert, who is also a Democratic political consultant in South Florida. "You had the opportunity, as Governor Lawton Chiles once did, in saying the state is on the wrong side of history and unable to defend the discriminatory measure in our constitution. Worse, as the Attorney General of Florida, you declared that gay Floridians like my husband and me posed great harm. Those aren’t my words, those are yours because it was done under your control and supervision. You cannot deflect responsibility to one of your lawyers as you said in the interview."

"I can only believe that your heart is guided by love, but your acts and words show a different voice," Ulvert added, calling on Bondi to now use her position to fight against discrimination of LGBT people going forward.

Bondi said in a statement to the Herald/Times Thursday afternoon: “I know Christian, and I am happy to sit down with him and my legislative team prior to the start of the 2017 legislative session.”

In the wake of Tuesday's interview, a rift between Bondi and Cooper grew Wednesday as the two exchanged responses over the true purpose of the CNN interview.

Read the latest on that here.

Bondi claimed she was supposed to talk about the potential for donation scams after the Orlando shooting, and she said afterward that Cooper "completely flipped" by bringing up her record on LGBT issues. Cooper countered that Bondi was "either mistaken or she’s not telling the truth" about why she was booked for the live interview.

Bondi's office has not responded to a request for comment about Cooper's response to her claims.

June 15, 2016

Anderson Cooper: Pam Bondi 'either mistaken or not telling the truth' about CNN interview

Capture

@ByKristenMClark

Hold the phone, Pam Bondi.

In Act 3 of a two-day saga, CNN host Anderson Cooper says Florida's Republican attorney general is "either mistaken or she's not telling the truth" about the pretenses of her now-viral interview with him Tuesday afternoon.

Cooper had questioned the 'sick irony' of Bondi talking about her support for the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando shooting massacre, when she previously had fought for years efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Florida.

On Wednesday morning, Bondi responded to the interview by going on a New York talk radio show -- the host of which, Todd Schnitt, called Bondi his "long-time friend." Bondi and the radio hosts criticized Cooper for interviewing her under false pretenses.

She said "the interview was supposed to be about helping victims families" by educating the public about potential donation scams and Tuesday wasn't "the time nor the place" to discuss a "constitutional issue."

But on "AC 360" Wednesday night, Cooper said Bondi's preferred topic actually wasn't the purpose of the interview at all.

He said, before they went on air, he asked Bondi -- as he does all his guests -- what she'd like to talk about. He chose to lead the interview with that, but then he said he wanted to hold her accountable for the contradiction between her past and present comments about LGBT people.

"Let's be real here," Cooper said, "Ms. Bondi's big complaint seems to be that I asked in the first place, in the wake of a massacre that targeted gay and lesbian citizens, about her new statements about the gay community and about her old ones."

He added: "It's my job to hold people accountable. And if on Sunday, a politician's talking about love and embracing 'our LGBT community,' I don't think it's unfair to look at their record and see if they have actually ever spoken that way publicly before -- which I've never heard her say."

Watch Cooper's full response to Bondi here:

The full-length version of her original CNN interview -- which Cooper refers to and which Bondi had complained wasn't posted online -- is available here:

Here, again, was Bondi's response to Cooper on the radio show Wednesday morning:

Pam Bondi: Yesterday wasn't 'time nor place' for CNN's Anderson Cooper to ask about her record on LGBT rights

via @adamsmithtimes

Attorney General Pam Bondi today appeared on the radio show of her friend Todd Schnitt, criticizing CNN's Anderson Cooper for focusing on her record on LGBT rights -- rather than questions about helping victims of the Orlando shooting which she had expected to address.

"The interview was supposed to be about helping victims families not creating, more anger and havoc and hatred," she said.

Listen to the interview below.

Read here for more on the original CNN interview.