June 16, 2016

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


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



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.

June 14, 2016

Pam Bondi on CNN: 'I've never said I don't like gay people'


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday defended her actions two years ago to fight same-sex marriage during a tense interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Cooper questioned if it were a "sick irony" for Bondi to say in interviews since the shootings in Orlando that anyone who attacks the gay community will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law when she argued in court years ago that allowing marriage equality would "impose significant public harm." He said there are people in the gay community who think she's a hypocrite for her actions.

Cooper asked Bondi if she saw herself as a champion of the gay community.

Bondi responded that she was defending the state constitution, as she is sworn to defend.

"I've never said I don't like gay people," Bondi said. "That's ridiculous."

A 4-minute clip of the interview is posted on CNN.com; CNN reporter Brian Stelter also tweeted out a longer, 5-1/2 minute version (above). 

June 10, 2016

Scratch one Bondi complaint, as Florida Bar has no jurisdiction

via @stevebousquet

The Massachusetts lawyer who wants an investigation of Attorney General Pam Bondi won't be getting much of a response from the Florida Bar.

Bondi is a member of the Florida Cabinet, a lawyer and member of the Bar, but as long as she holds public office, she's beyond the Bar's jurisdiction. Citing a writ of prohibition issued by the Supreme Court in 1982 that dealt with separation of powers issues, the Bar says anyone who files a complaint against a lawyer who at the time holds a constitutional office receives this response:

"The Florida Supreme Court has held that a person elected to a constitutionally created office who must be a lawyer to hold that office is not answerable to the Florida Bar while that person holds that office. Therefore, the Bar does not have jurisdiction over the elected state attorney or elected public defender in any of our judicial circuits, nor do we have jurisdiction over the attorney general of our state."

The Bar also notes that under the Florida Constitution, a Cabinet member is exclusively subject to impeachment proceedings by the state House of Representatives "for misdemeanor in office."

Attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee III of Brookline, Mass. filed a complaint with the Bar Wednesday based on news accounts that she solicited a $25,000 campaign contribution from Donald Trump in 2013 at a time when her office had on file at least one complaint from a disgruntled customer of Trump University, the GOP presidential candidate's now-defunct real estate academy.

Trump U is a defendant in class-action civil suits involving customers living in California, Florida and New York who accuse the program of fraud and deceptive trade practices.

Larrabee accused Bondi of a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety. He also filed complaints against with Bondi with the Florida Elections Commission and Commission on Ethics. Bondi has called all three complaints "attacks without merit and I am confident it will be shown they have no basis in fact."

Activists blast Gov. Rick Scott and AG Pam Bondi for failing to condemn Trump's 'racist' comments

GOP 2016 TrumpDemocratic activists on Thursday blasted Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi Thursday for failing to condemn Donald Trump for what they consider "racist" comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel and urged them to refrain from using taxpayer dollars to travel to Tampa to appear on stage with the presumptive Republican nominee on Saturday.

"We understand it takes all the efforts of our taxpayer dollars to mobilize and move around our elected officials and when you stand up with those...who have been involved in racist comments, that speaks volumes,'' said Derrick McRae, pastor of The Experience Christian Center in Orlando in a call with reporters. "We should not be using state funds to help push a racist comment or a racist platform."

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Delray Beach, said he was especially outraged that Bondi and Scott, who were elected to uphold the laws of Florida, have refused to distance themselves from the comments or demand a public apology from Trump.

"As a Republican partisan, Pam Bondi has every right to support these raciest views; she has every right to participate in conference calls with the campaign,'' Deutch said. But as "the attorney general for one of our countries most diverse states she's got a moral obligation to...denounce the statements as Republican leaders across the country have done."

Bondi and Scott are scheduled to appear Saturday at an 11 a.m. rally with Trump at the Tampa Convention Center. Neither has criticized Trump for comments suggesting that because Curiel is of Mexican descent he could not be fair in his treatment of the pending lawsuit about the now-defunct Trump University. Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican parents.

After repeatedly citing Curiel’s ethnicity, Trump said Tuesday that his comments questioning whether a federal judge was biased because of his Mexican heritage have been “misconstrued” and that he didn’t mean to impugn the American justice system with his complaints or Mexican-Americans in general.

Immigration activist Maria Rodriguez also called out Helen Aguirre Ferré, a member of the board of trustees of Miami Dade College who was recently hired as Hispanic communications director of the Republican National Committee, for her failure to distance herself from Trump's comments.

"It's very disappointing to see Helen Aguirre Ferré use her name legitimize this very divisive campaign,'' she said. "It sanitizes the hate and divisiveness of this speech."

Rodriguez accused Trump of "successfully divided and bullied his way to the Republican nomination" and done it "through coded and blatant attacks on latinos."

Chastising Aguirre Ferré, she said, "it's a huge contradiction to serve in a Hispanic-serving institution and turn your back on the students who are being attacked by this candidate."

Aguirre Ferré told the Miami Herald she sees her role as  "in support of all the Republican candidates."

She has publicly criticized Trump in the past with #NeverTrump tweets, where she called him crazy and criticized Trump for inciting violence at his Chicago rally. Last month she told Univisión’s Al Punto Florida, “I do think there’s something that bothers him about strong and independent women.” She has since deleted her critical Trump tweets.

Rodriguez said she was "not surprised by Attorney General Bondi. "She has used every opportunity to undermine immigrant families and supported attacks on their families" by using tax money to file action aimed at blocking President Obama's executive order on immigration.

Deutch, a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, said Scott should "make it very clear the citizens of Florida should expect the governor of our state, our diverse state, who has endorsed Donald Trump, that he will rescind the endorsement until he apologizes and makes clear he will support a legal system that works for all Americans."

Photo: FILE - In this May 26, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Billings, Mont., Thursday, May 26, 2016. Trump says comments on judge 'misconstrued' as an attack against people of Mexican heritage.Brennan Linsley AP


June 02, 2016

Florida's cost for same-sex marriage court fight: Nearly $500K

From Dara Kam at The News Service of Florida:

Florida taxpayers are on the hook for almost $500,000 in fees to lawyers who successfully challenged the state's prohibition against same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who initially balked at paying the legal fees, has agreed to pay $280,000 to Jacksonville lawyers William Sheppard, Betsy White and Sam Jacobson, who represented two same-sex couples, according to documents filed in federal court on Wednesday.

Bondi's office last month agreed to pay $213,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented eight same-sex couples who were married in other states.

The settlements came after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in April that the lawyers in the consolidated cases were entitled to the fees, and nearly two years after Hinkle first ruled that Florida's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.

Hinkle put a stay on his August 2014 constitutional decision until January 2015, when same-sex marriages began in Florida.

A battle over the legal fees began last summer, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. The Supreme Court ruling came in a case involving other states, but it cemented Hinkle's ruling that Florida's ban was unconstitutional.

Continue reading "Florida's cost for same-sex marriage court fight: Nearly $500K" »

Group highlights financial ties between Pam Bondi and opponents of the Clean Power Plan

Pam BondiThe liberal advocacy group, Americans United For Change, is out with a new report highlighting the financial ties between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other Republican attorneys general, and the oil, gas and utilities industries as they fight to block enforcement of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

According to calculations by FollowTheMoney,org, the report says Bondi collected $26,350 from the energy industries in the 2010 and 2014 election cycles. A closer look by the Herald/Times however, shows the figure is much higher - at least $75,000 just for the 2014 cycle. (The figure could potentially be hundreds of thousands more if donations to shadowy pass-through groups were required to be disclosed.)

Bondi joined with 23 other states, including a handful run by Democratic governors, and last year filed a lawsuit against the EPA to block the implementation of a rule by Environmental Protection Agency. The August rule revised the Clean Power Plan to impose the first-ever carbon limits on power plants. It required a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants by 32 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels, and is aggressively opposed by the oil, gas and utility industries. 

Bondi and others argued that the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the implementation of the plan in February but the lawsuit continues. Meanwhile, a recent poll by Bloomberg Philanthropies -- run by the former New York mayor who supports the EPA rule -- found that 73 percent of Florida voters support the Clean Power Plan. 

Now, Americans for Change claims that the legal officers who were opposing the rule were doing it not to help their constituents, but to advance the agendas of the utility, oil and gas industry. 

"Republican attorneys general are doing the bidding of their polluter donor friends rather than working on the people of their state,'' said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans for Change in a media call on Thursday. The group says Republican AGs collectively received $4.7 million from opponents of the Clean Power Plan. "If you ask me, that's pretty damning."

Update June 8: The information provided by Americans United for Change did not list which companies they consider opponents of the Clean Power Plan. A 2015 blog by the National Resources Defense Council indicated that some of the constructive comments to the Environmental Protection Agency about the rule were from power companies such as the parent of Florida Power & Light, NextEra Energy which showed they are "constructively engaged regarding the EPA's Clean Power Plan proposal."

"NextEra "supports the Clean Power Plan as a reasonable and balanced approach to reducing CO2 emissions from the electric generating sector that is consistent with the CAA and EPA's implementing regulations,'' the blog quotes NextEra as saying.

NextEra, which as one of the nation's largest wind and solar energy providers, sees business opportunities in the Clean Power Plan and  actually filed a motion to intervene in the case in support of the EPA rule.  "NextEra has and will continue to develop significant renewable power generation facilities that will be directly impacted by the outcome of the Final Rule,'' the NextERa motion stated.

"NextEra is deeply concerned about the impact that a negative ruling on the EPA Clean Power Plan could have on the company....If petitioners were to prevail in the case the benefits to NextEra likely to follow from the Clean Power Plan will be reduced or eliminated." 

Does that mean NextEra does not support Bondi's attempt to block the rule? The Herald/Times asked NextEra spokesman Rob Gould: Is NextEra opposed to Bondi's opposition to the Clean Power Plan and the timeline for compliance with the emission reductions?

His answer: "We really have nothing to offer."

Some of the organizations NextEra and FPL are large contributors to have been actively working to defeat the Clean Power Plan. In Jan. 2016, the U.S. Chamber's Litigation Center joined other business groups and filed a lawsuit similar to the one filed by the states to stay the Clean Power Plan. The lawsuit came six months after FPL President Eric Silagy was elected a member of the U.S Chamber Board of Directors

Gould said that the company is committed to expanding renewable energy options. "As the largest generator of wind and solar power in the world, NextEra Energy has long supported efforts to encourage investment in affordable clean energy."

Some of the company's investments, however, have gone to people and organizations who don't agree that the Clean Power Plan is a means to the clean energy goal.

In 2014, FPL was a contributor to Bondi's political committee, Justice for All, giving her $50,000 from Florida Power & Light.

Continue reading "Group highlights financial ties between Pam Bondi and opponents of the Clean Power Plan" »

May 18, 2016

Florida lawmaker wants AG opinion on feds’ transgender bathroom rules; Pam Bondi declines


An outgoing conservative lawmaker in Florida who is running for Nassau County schools superintendent wants state Attorney General Pam Bondi to issue an official opinion on what she believes to be the "constitutional encroach" of the Obama administration's new guidance to public schools over transgender students' bathroom access.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, called the president's new policy a "clear violation" of states' rights under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"It is clear that the Obama administration is once again circumventing the Congress and even its own federal rule-making process to impose new federal rules and laws on Florida’s public schools," Adkins said in a statement this morning.

MORE: Read Rep. Adkins' letter to Bondi

But Bondi’s office isn’t wading into the issue. Deputy Attorney General Kent J. Perez wrote in a response to Adkins on Wednesday afternoon: “We do not issue legal opinions on federal law.”

On Friday, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice sent letters of guidance to all public schools nationwide informing them that they must treat students in ways that match their gender identities -- or risk losing federal money under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in educational programs based on sex.

Republican leaders in Florida have been reluctant to comment so far on the new guidelines. But Adkins, the outgoing chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee, wants a swifter response: For the state to challenge the Obama administration's directive.

Read the full story here.

Published 10:49 a.m.; Updated 4:30 p.m.

May 05, 2016

Add one more name to Donald Trump's potential VP list: Pam Bondi



The chatter among Florida politicians since Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been less about Trump possibly naming Gov. Rick Scott his running mate and more about another potential pick: Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi's name hasn't made it on the many speculative lists of Trump No. 2's. But if Trump is looking for someone on the ticket to help shore up Florida support, perhaps she should be included.

Consider: Unlike Scott, Bondi endorsed Trump ahead (just barely) of the Florida primary. Unlike Scott, she's obviously comfortable on television. Unlike Scott, she has a years-long personal friendship with Trump.

Scott has the higher office and is much better known (if not very popular). He has also said, as recently as Wednesday night on CNN, that he's not interested in running with Trump.

For his part, Trump has insisted he wants to run with a seasoned politician who can help the celebrity businessman navigate Washington and legislative politics. As an attorney general and former prosecutor, Bondi wouldn't bring any of that experience, though she has had to work with state lawmakers in Tallahassee.

Bondi also seems to have more friends than Trump among Florida's Republican establishment. But she also upset many of those folks when she backed Trump, especially because his foundation had given her political committee a $25,000 donation when she ran for re-election -- and her office later didn't investigate claims against Trump University.

Cue more chatter.

UPDATE: Bondi's Tampa-based political consultant, Adam Goodman, went on Fox News on Thursday suggesting her as a VP choice.

Photo credit: Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

An earlier version of this post misstated the dollar amount of the donation from Trump's foundation to Bondi's campaign.