Now it gets real.
The frivolities of summer are behind us. Kids are back in school, vacations are over and Election Day is just two months away. The polls are getting tighter and the presidential campaign has begun in earnest. For a lot of voters, this is when they really start paying attention. And one of the things they ought to be curious about comes to us out of Florida, where the politically bizarre is almost commonplace.
Here’s how the timeline plays out on this one:
— On Sept. 13, 2013, a spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the press that her office was reviewing similar consumer complaints about fraud perpetrated by Trump University in Florida and was considering joining the New York lawsuit.
— While that preliminary investigation was underway, Bondi by her own account personally called Donald Trump and solicited a campaign contribution. Both she and Trump say they did not discuss the pending fraud case in those conversations.
— On Sept. 17, 2013, Bondi’s efforts paid off when the Trump Foundation made a $25,000 campaign contribution to a political action committee created to aid in Bondi’s re-election.
— Shortly after the contribution, Bondi’s office concluded that despite more than 20 complaints from Florida citizens that Trump University had been a fraud and was refusing to grant promised refunds, it had no grounds for joining a suit against Trump.
But wait, there’s more.
The campaign donation to Bondi was illegal, because foundations are not allowed to donate to political campaigns. And when the Trump Foundation filed its required 2013 expenditures to the IRS, something odd happened. That report showed no sign of the illegal contribution to Bondi’s campaign. Instead, it reported that the $25,000 contribution had gone to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi’s group. (In reality, the Kansas charity received no contribution from Trump or from his charity.)
Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks now attributes both the illegal contribution and the misleading IRS report to “an unfortunate series of coincidences and errors,” and Trump has paid a $2,500 fine as a result.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Trump has bragged, openly, repeatedly and without apparent shame, about his longtime practice of buying politicians with donations, known in shorthand as “pay to play.”
“When I want something, I get it,” he boasted to an Iowa crowd back in the primaries. “When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass.”
Admittedly, I don’t usually give much credence to Trump’s bragging. But in this case, given the supporting facts, when The Donald says it’s true, I think we should probably believe him.