Attorney General Pam Bondi adamantly defended herself Wednesday when questioned about news reports implying she has cozy relationships with out-of-state lobbyists and corporate lawyers.
"No lobbyist, 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 in the state of Florida," Bondi told reporters after the state Cabinet meeting. "We will continue to protect the consumers in the state of Florida, and that is not going to change."
The New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times, in a number of recent articles, detailed how Washington lobbyists have sought to influence state attorneys general to the benefit of private corporations.
Bondi was given prominent coverage in the articles. The reports noted she took a free charter flight to a luxury resort on Mackinac Island, Mich., and while there invited Lori Kalani, a lobbyist and lawyer at D.C.-based Dickstein Shapiro, to stay at her Tampa home to recuperate from a foot injury. The Michigan trip was paid for by the Republican Attorneys General Association.
A complaint has been filed with the state Commission on Ethics asking if any state law was broken as Dickstein Shapiro isn't registered to lobby in Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported Oct. 31.
According to The New York Times on Sunday, Dickstein Shapiro "specializes in building personal relationships with state attorneys general to help corporate clients avoid becoming targets of investigation."
The Republican Attorneys General Association receives money from corporations. Dickstein Shapiro donated $35,000 last year to the association, as it is one of about 280 members of the association.
Bondi deferred comments regarding the trips to the association.
Jessica Medeiros Garrison, executive director for the Republican Attorneys General Association, called it "absurd" when asked about The New York Times reporting, which made it appear there is a quid pro quo involving corporations and attorneys general.
"Like all national political organizations, RAGA pays for expenses for its member attorneys general that attend meetings to help with national fundraising," Garrison said in an email Wednesday. "RAGA does this in full compliance with federal and state laws that regulate fundraising and political activity for RAGA and its member attorneys general."
Bondi was easily re-elected last week, running a campaign that focused on her efforts to crack down on pill mills, synthetic drugs and human trafficking.
With more than twice the funding of her two competitors, she was able to withstand repeated charges that her office was too close to Gov. Rick Scott and corporate lobbyists.