Pam bondi Archives - Florida Politics

Bills that would create state trafficking hotline have yet to gain momentum

Lawmakers want to put an end to “modern day slavery” by creating a Florida human trafficking hotline under two identical proposals that have yet to gain momentum in the state Legislature.

Those advocating for the measures, HB 159 and SB 596, urged lawmakers on Monday to back the proposals and give them hearings in their committee assignments. The bills would require the Attorney General’s Office to create and operate a toll-free hotline, which would be subject to funding approval.

Since 2012, Florida has received the third highest numbers of calls to the national human trafficking hotline, trailing California and Texas, according to the national hotline’s data.

“This is a glaring reflection of the magnitude of the problem in Florida, and shows why the state needs its own hotline, one that is capable of focusing specifically on the unique challenges experienced here,” said former Sen. Maria Sachs, who runs a human trafficking foundation.

Sen. Perry Thurston and state Rep. Robert Asencio are championing the bills in an effort to better identify areas in the state affected by human trafficking. Both of their bills have been referred to three committee assignments, but have yet to be heard.

Under the proposals, HB 159 and SB 596, the Attorney General’s Office would also be tasked with pushing education campaigns that would help people identify warning signs of trafficking.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has urged multi-state collaboration to combat human trafficking and has pledged to put a stop to human trafficking in Florida in the past by saying the state is taking a “zero-tolerance” stance on the crime.

Former U.S. Attorney Pam Marsh, who fought investigated human trafficking in the Northern District of Florida from 2010-15, said the state is “ground zero in the fight against human trafficking.”

“We must draw trafficking out of the shadows, and expose it to the full light of day,” Marsh said. “Only then can we eradicate it.”

Florida Democrats blast Rick Scott op-ed supporting Dreamers

With Congress potentially just hours away from a government shutdown in part because of a dispute over whether to include a plan to deal with those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a group of Florida Democrats slammed Gov. Rick Scott Friday for what they called his hypocrisy regarding DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers.

In an op-ed published this week in USA Today, Scott called on Congress to secure the immigration status of those young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. through their parent’s choice. Scott also said policy decisions should be coupled with enhancements for border security.

“Personally, I just don’t see how doing the right thing for these kids, and doing the right thing for our country by securing our borders, are partisan issues,” Scott wrote. “These are just plain common-sense actions for Congress to take.”

Approximately 780,000 Dreamers were given protection from deportation under DACA in 2014, but President Donald Trump announced last year he was dismantling it this March. Democrats want to address the issue this week within a continuing resolution, while Republicans say there is no urgency to do so just yet, and it should not be a barrier to keeping the government up and running.

“In Florida, we pride ourselves on being the gateway to the world,”  Scott added. “Many Dreamers live in our state because they are in search of what we all care about: a good job, a good education and the ability to live in a safe community. It’s time for Washington to secure our borders and to do the right thing for these kids by removing the uncertainty hanging over their future goals and dreams. It’s really not too much for us to ask Congress to get these things done.”

With Scott likely to take on Democrat Bill Nelson in a U.S. Senate race this year, Florida Democrats seized upon Scott’s take on the issue, saying his more sympathetic stance towards Dreamers is an election year conversion, noting his support for a controversial immigration law in Arizona when he first ran in 2010.

That law, SB 1070, required police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is “reasonable suspicion” they are in the U.S. illegally. Arizona ended that policy in 2016.

“Rick Scott can write all of the op-eds he wants, but Dreamers will remember who was on their side over the past 16 years of fighting for the DREAM Act,” said House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in a conference call. “They’ll remember who campaigned on a platform of deporting them and who marched with them. They’ll remember who the real allies of Florida immigrants have been.”

Boca Raton Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch called SB 1070 one of the “most racist, anti-Latino pieces of legislation in recent history.”

“He even paid for TV ads applauding it, and tried very, very hard to bring it to Florida,” Deutch added. “We talk about candidates borrowing from the Trump-playbook of scapegoating immigrants, but it’s possible if you look at the history that our President borrowed from Scott’s playbook.”

Deutsch also referred to Scott’s attempts to purge the voter rolls in 2012, citing a Miami Herald story that found 58 percent of those who would be purged from the rolls where Hispanic. “This Governor cannot hide from his record,” he said. “DREAMers don’t need lip service, they need Republicans who will join with Democrats and step up to pass a clean DREAM Act.”

“When the DREAM Act came before Congress in 2010, Rick Scott made it very clear that he was against it, saying that he ‘does not believe in amnesty,”‘ said Broward County Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer. “Three years later later Rick Scott opposed Dreamers once again, as he vetoed bipartisan legislation that allowed DACA recipients to receive temporary driver’s licenses. In 2014 Rick Scott refused to oppose a lawsuit led by Donald Trump’s favorite State Attorney General Pam Bondi, which opposed DACA and DAPA, seeking to block as many as 5 million undocumented youth and their parents, including thousands here in Florida, from receiving permits which would protect them from unjust deportation.”

Last fall, Scott said that President Barack Obama was wrong to address the Dreamers issue by Executive Order, and said it should have been done in consultation with Congress.

“I do not favor  punishing children for the actions of their parents,” he said in a statement, adding that “these kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

“Governor Scott has been clear in his support for DREAMers, including supporting and signing a bill in 2014 that provided in-state tuition for DREAMers in Florida,” spokesperson Kerri Wyland said late Friday. 


Ashley Moody adds pair of Miami pols’ endorsements

Former prosecutor and circuit court judge Ashley Moody added two more endorsements for her Attorney General campaign Thursday, this time from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

“As elected leaders, there is no greater priority than the safety of those we serve. Our next Attorney General must be prepared to work with agencies and law enforcement leaders from every level to keep our state safe and strengthen our criminal justice system. Ashley Moody has the knowledge and experience needed to hit the ground running and keep us safe. I look forward to working with her to help strengthen the safety and security of our Miami community and I’m proud to endorse her for Attorney General,” Suarez said.

Moody said she was “extremely honored” by the endorsement and that Suarez “understands that in order for cities to flourish we must elect leaders committed to public safety and the protection of those they serve.”

In his endorsement, Diaz-Balart called Moody “a tireless advocate for the Rule of Law.”

“She possesses the experience, fairness, and common sense we need in our next Attorney General. I am proud to support her to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi. I am confident that Ashley will do a superb job as Attorney General, protecting our state and combating the growing public safety challenges we face,” he said.

Moody said she was thankful for the endorsement and said “Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart’s track record of service to his community and this country is well known to all he represented. To have his trust, faith, and confidence is humbling. He set a sterling example that all public servants should aspire to emulate.”

Suarez and Diaz-Balart join dozens of backers, including more than two dozen sitting county sheriffs, who have lined up behind Moody in what is shaping up to be an expensive and hotly contested primary to replace Bondi, who is up against term limits in 2018.

Moody is running against Pensacola Rep. Frank White, Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant and Dover Rep. Ross Spano for the GOP nomination. Running for the Democratic nomination are Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens, both of Tampa.

White leads in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000.

White’s and Fant’s totals were bolstered by their personal money – White has anted up $1.5 million, and Fant put in $750,000.

Sean Shaw enters AG race, promises contrast to Pam Bondi

Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw has made it official: he’s running for Attorney General this year, promising if elected to operate differently from term-limited Pam Bondi.

“The people of our state should be able to count on their Attorney General to protect them and to always enforce the rule of law, not have someone more concerned with how their actions will play during their next Fox News hit,” he told reporters at a news conference outside the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee Tuesday morning.

“Soon, they will have one.”

Shaw said if he were elected, he would be an activist-oriented Attorney General to protect the interests of all Floridians. “No longer will unconstitutional laws be defended, costing taxpayers millions,” he said. “And no longer will Florida stand on the sidelines while other states battle to end this horrific opioid epidemic.”s

Shaw is the son of the late Leander J. Shaw Jr., the state’s first black chief justice. He referenced him in his speech.

“He knew, and he imparted to me, that standing up for the rights of our fellow Floridians was an incredible responsibility that could never be taken lightly,” Shaw said. “Because the rule of law should act as the ultimate equalizer for everyone, no matter where you’re from, what God you worship, or who you love.”

Shaw also took a shot at President Donald Trump in his brief speech, saying, “There is a man inhabiting the White House in Washington whose lawlessness and contempt for the norms that have allowed our country to thrive for centuries seem to have no bounds.”

Shaw said that makes it incumbent for attorneys general throughout the nation to be “truly independent” to uphold the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution, “because this movement is not just about what’s happening here in Florida It is about people everywhere who want to know that their families will be kept safe and their rights will be protected.”

Although he’s only serving in his second Session as a member of the Florida Legislature, Shaw is well-versed in Tallahassee and state government. He grew up in the capital city, and after attending college at Princeton University and getting his law degree from the University of Florida, returned to run for a House seat in 2008, but lost to Alan Williams.

Shortly after, he was picked by former Gov. Charlie Crist to serve as the state’s Insurance Consumer Advocate from November 2008 through September 2010. He is also the founder of Policyholders of Florida, a group focused on campaigning against unfair property insurance increases on Florida families.

Shaw moved to Tampa and ran for the House District 61 seat in 2014, but lost to Ed Narain in the primary. He subsequently won the seat in 2016 against fellow Democrats Dianne Hart and Walter Smith.

The only other Democrat in the Attorney General race is fellow Hillsborough County resident Ryan Torrens, an attorney. In a statement, Torrens said he welcomed Shaw’s entry into the race.

“Now Floridians will be able to determine for themselves which candidate will be the steady, crusading attorney general that Florida’s Democratic leaders have long been saying Floridians need and deserve, now more than ever,” Torrens said.

The Republican field includes former Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody and state House Republicans Ross Spano from Dover, Jay Fant from Jacksonville and Frank White from Pensacola, all of whom have raised nearly $1 million already.

“Florida’s a big state, and we’ve got to raise substantial resources, but I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that,” Shaw said when asked by reporters about how much he’d be able to raise for his campaign. When asked if it would be $4 million, he said it would be more than that.

The Republican Attorneys General Association blasted Shaw in an announcement, calling him an “extreme liberal who would put his personal political agenda ahead of anything else — including the law.”

“There should be no doubt, Shaw would join progressive Democrats across America as an activist attorney general — legislating through the court at every turn,” said RAGA executive director Scott Will. “This is an affront to our system of government and speaks volumes about Shaw’s disrespect for Floridians. Florida deserves an attorney general who defends the rule of law, protects its citizens and champions opportunity for every person.”

As far as fundraising goes, Ashley Moody had the best December in crowded AG race

The four Republicans running to replace term limited Attorney General Pam Bondi continue to pile on cash through their campaign and committee accounts, with former circuit court judge Ashley Moody taking the top spot in December with more than $140,000 raised.

Moody added $72,300 of that money through her campaign account and tacked on an even $70,000 via her political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody. The December numbers give Moody, who has Bondi’s support in primary, about $1.3 million cash on hand.

That sum puts her in second place, money wise, though her campaign is quick to point out that when her opponents’ campaign loans are excluded from ledger, she’s winning the money race hands down – $1,472,307 for Moody versus $816,798 combined for for her opponents.

“We’re proud to have finished 2017 with more donors, donations, and endorsements from Florida Sheriffs than anyone else in this race,” Moody said in a press release. “This is a reflection of voters and law enforcement leaders from throughout our state supporting our strong conservative message of enforcing the rule of law and strengthening Florida for generations to come. We’re proud of our growing team of supporters and the work begins anew in 2018.

The top spot overall belongs to Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White, who by the end of the year had had crossed the $2 million mark in total fundraising between his campaign and committee, United Conservatives.

That total includes a $1.5 million check he cut to his own campaign to get it rolling after joining the race in October.

He capped off 2017 with a $100,000 December – $53,000 through his committee and $47,057 through his committee – and started 2018 with $1.98 million on hand.

Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant had a less productive month than Moody or White, tallying up about $23,000 between his two accounts.

Fant, who holds the HD 15 seat, was the first-in candidate and got off to a hot start on the fundraising trail, but has lagged behind as the competition has ratcheted up. He started 2018 with with $921,000 on hand between his campaign account and committee, Pledge This Day. That total includes a $750,000 loan he made in October.

Tampa Republican Rep. Ross Spano is the most recent entrant, and through six weeks in the race he has $66,539 banked for his campaign, including $17,745 raised in December.

When he switched his campaign over, he brought about $44,000 cash on hand he’d stockpiled for his HD 59 re-election bid, and since then has raised $26,605.

He’ll have to wait a bit to catch up with his Republican Primary opponents, since as a sitting lawmaker he’s barred from raising money while the Legislature is in session. The same rule applies to Fant and White.

Also running is Democrat Ryan Torrens, who is so far the only non-GOP candidate to declare. That could change in the near future depending on whether Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw decides to make a run.

Torrens raised $7,372 in December and spent $8,220, making for his fifth straight month spending more than he raised. He’s raised $65,637 since filing in May and has $2,881 cash on hand.

If Shaw were to enter, he would bring about $41,000 with him from his HD 61 re-election campaign.

Florida could grant legal immunity for reporting drug overdoses

A Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would grant people immunity for carrying small amounts of drugs if they seek medical help for an overdose.

The proposal applies to individuals who are found in possession of any drug, including fentanyl and illicit opioids, if they ask for medical assistance in “good faith” when they believe a user is experiencing an overdose.

“It’s really trying to make sure that if somebody is in the midst of seeing somebody struggling of an overdose they shouldn’t have to be worried about the state charging them,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Pinellas County Republican sponsoring the measure.

“They should immediately do the right thing — the focus here is to save lives.”

Under a law signed last year that created tougher drug trafficking statutes, fentanyl traffickers can face first-degree murder charges  if users die from an overdose.

The law was in response to the growing opioid epidemic gripping the state and upon passage was praised by Attorney Pam Bondi as life-saving legislation that “gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to combat the trafficking of fentanyl.”

The proposed measure (SB 970) would not toss or change that law. However, it would give arrest and prosecution immunity to people who seek medical assistance in “good faith” if they believe an individual is experiencing an alcohol or drug-related overdose even if they are found in possession of fentanyl and helped distribute the drug to the user.

Over 40 states have passed similar laws over the years. Brandes believes it can help lower the number of “preventable” alcohol- and drug-related overdose deaths in Florida, which amounted to 5,392 in the first six months of 2016, according to Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics.

The vote to move the bill ahead was unanimous. The measure now has two more committee stops before it can head to the full floor for consideration.

Hours before the vote Senate President Joe Negron kicked off the 2018 legislative session by urging lawmakers to address the opioid crisis and to make sure addicts have access to the resources they need to beat their drug habits.

Brandes, who has long championed criminal justice reform bills and is now the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, said he is “excited” to see a shift in policy this year in the criminal justice arena.

Frank White crosses $2 million mark in 2017

New Year’s is a time for reflection, and when Pensacola state Rep. Frank White looked back on 2017, he liked what he saw.

The Republican attorney general candidate put out an infographic over the weekend touting his campaign’s 2017 successes in fundraising, endorsements and campaign stops.

Topping the year in review was a declaration that the campaign hit $2.05 million in total fundraising last year, including $100,025 in December, which it believes will allow White to comfortably hold the top spot in the money race.

While much of that money came from White’s own pockets, that’s a safe bet barring an unprecedented fundraising month from one of the four other candidates vying to replace termed-out AG Pam Bondi.

Former circuit judge Ashley Moody and state Rep. Jay Fant, both Republicans, have each broken the million dollar mark, but both are several hundred thousand dollars away from hitting $2 million.

The fourth Republican in the race, Tampa Rep. Ross Spano, has about $52,000 in his campaign account, but he hasn’t filed a full-month report since declaring he would run for Attorney General rather than re-election to the House, while Democrat Ryan Torrens hasn’t picked up much traction on the fundraising front and might not get a chance to if Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw decides to enter the race.

White’s infographic also showed off the 20 endorsements he’s pulled in since declaring in October, with top billing going to Okaloosa Sheriff Larry Ashley, Santa Rosa Sheriff Bob Johnson, Escambia Sheriff David Morgan, and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, himself a former sheriff of Duval County.

The campaign also racked up some miles in 2017, with 17 campaign ranging from Miami and the I-4 corridor to the First Coast and, of course, his home turf on the Florida Panhandle.

The year in review closed out by dubbing the first-term House District 2 representative “the one true conservative for attorney general.”

The infographic is below:

Frank White Year in Review

Pam Bondi 9-6-2017

Pam Bondi says firefighter charity is a fraud

Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday filed a complaint seeking to shut down a Florida charity falsely claiming to use charitable donations to provide financial support to families of firefighters lost in the line of duty, according to a press release.

Community Charity Advancement, Inc. (CCAI) also allegedly falsely claims to use donations to provide assistance to breast cancer research organizations and breast cancer patients, but in some instances uses donations for different purposes.  

A request for comment was left with a person answering the number listed for CCAI’s Pompano Beach office.

According to the complaint, CCAI’s deceptive acts and practices mislead generous donors into contributing to CCAI instead of the many legitimate charitable organizations operating bona fide programs that support breast cancer research, breast cancer and fire victims, as well as firefighters.

“It is absolutely abhorrent to exploit families of fallen firefighters and breast cancer patients to steal from generous Floridians,” Bondi said in a statement. 

“Charity scams prey on people’s goodwill and discourage people from giving,” she added. “Furthermore, every dollar given to a deceptive charity is a dollar that does not go to those in need. This is an outrageous ploy and those responsible will be held accountable.”

The complaint also alleges that CCAI falsely represents having a partnership with bona fide cancer research and support organizations to deceptively lend legitimacy to the company’s activities.

Some of these organizations who are not in partnership with CCAI, despite the company’s claims, include the University of Florida, Johns Hopkins and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

During the past four years, CCAI reported raising more than $40 million in donations through the fundraising efforts of various fictitious names.

In 2014, CCAI reported raising more than $10 million in donations, which CCAI provided just $49,000, or half of one penny, in cash contributions to breast cancer research organizations.

In that same year, CCAI diverted half a million dollars in donations meant to support breast cancer research or assist patients to pay fundraisers and other vendors for services connected to its firefighter-related activities. Despite CCAI’s representations, CCAI made no financial donations during the past three years to support families of firefighters who passed away in the line of duty.

The complaint, filed in the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County, alleges violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices ActTo view the complaint, click here.

Consumers who donated to CCAI can file a complaint with Bondi’s office by clicking here.

On Fox’s ‘Hannity,’ Pam Bondi suggests that Robert Mueller ‘corrupt’ probe ‘worse than Watergate’

Count Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi among the increasing number of Republicans who are blasting special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russian probe for being rife with partisan bias.

Bondi appeared on Fox News “Hannity” program Wednesday night as part of a panel discussion with host Sean Hannity and Sebastian Gorka, a former Donald Trump deputy assistant hired by the network as a commentator.

It is time to get “all of these other people off the case,” Bondi said, referring to eight prosecutors on Mueller’s team who were identified as giving campaign contributions to Democrats.

For weeks, conservative media outlets have accused Mueller’s team of investigators of bias, citing because of the campaign contributions to Democrats. Panhandle U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is charging that the former FBI director’s team was “infected with bias” against the president, claiming the investigation puts the country at risk of a “coup d’etat.”

Several more congressional Republicans are sharing similar sentiments, many of them grilling Rod J. Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, Wednesday and calling to appoint a prosecutor to investigate Mueller’s investigation.

Their campaign was given legs when the Justice Department released hundreds of text messages exchanged last year between FBI agent Peter Strzok and an FBI attorney, Lisa Page, describing a possible Trump presidential victory as “terrifying” and saying that Hillary Clinton “just had to win.”

“God(,) Trump is a loathsome human,” Page added in a text; Strzok replies: “Yet he may win.”

Mueller removed Strzok from the Russian investigation upon being informed of those texts.

“They need to be dissolved, and they need to be investigated,” Bondi charged. “This team needs to be wiped out.”

At Wednesday’s congressional hearing, Rosenstein pushed back against the criticism that members of Mueller’s team could not be impartial prosecutors because they’d donated to Democrats. And he beat back repeated calls to select a second special prosecutor to investigate Mueller, saying that there is currently an inspector general with a 500-member staff and a $100 million budget already in place to review investigation.

Later in the show, Bondi agreed with Hannity that the level of corruption inside Mueller’s team was “worse than Watergate.”

“This is worse than Watergate, on a million levels here,” Hannity said.

“I agree,” Bondi interjected.

“By the time we entangle this massive web of corruption, it will be worse than Watergate,” Hannity repeated. “Watergate on human growth hormone and steroids combined at massive levels.”

“And you’re the one who had to untangle it, Sean, not the federal government,” Bondi said. “That’s the shame of it.”

Gorka followed up by saying he doubted Wednesday’s congressional hearing would’ve happened without Hannity’s interest in the issue.

“I agree,” Bondi added.



Pam Bondi explains why she won’t endorse dog racing ban

Attorney General Pam Bondi finally explained why she won’t publicly support a proposed ban on greyhound racing in Florida or any other constitutional amendment.

Bondi sits on the 37-member Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every 20 years to review and propose changes to the state’s governing document.

But, as the state’s chief legal officer, she’s also “the one who has to review all of these (amendments) for constitutionality … before they go on the ballot,” Bondi told reporters after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Any changes OK’d by the panel go on the 2018 statewide ballot, where they must get 60 percent approval from voters to be added to the constitution.

“So I’m trying not to comment on any of the CRC proposals,” she said. “I’m very careful commenting on anything until the appropriate time.”

Commissioner Tom Lee, a Republican state senator from Thonotosassa, had filed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban dog racing.

Bondi, a Tampa Republican who regularly brings shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted, had declined to say whether she would support the amendment.

Lee’s original proposal would have phased out live racing over three years; it was since changed to take effect only one year after passage.

Jack Cory, spokesman for the Florida Greyhound Association, has said Lee’s proposal “is bad for Florida and it is bad for the greyhounds.”

“It would cost over 3,000 Florida jobs, put over 8,000 beautiful greyhounds at risk and create mini-casinos throughout Florida,” Cory said in a statement, referring to other gambling—such as cards—that would continue at pari-mutuel facilities.

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