The fraud case against Trump University has quickly become a political one. First was the controversy over Donald Trump’s comments about the judge in the case, and now the mainstream media are frenetically investigating the matter involving the Republican presidential candidate.
The Associated Press — which said it “reviewed thousands of pages of records” regarding the case — reports that Trump made campaign contributions to attorney generals in states that decided not to pursue lawsuits against Trump University.
According to the AP, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally asked Trump for a donation to her re-election campaign. Trump has given more than $250,000 to Republican candidates in Florida since 1999, so the request from the state’s attorney general wasn’t all that unusual, for Trump or for Bondi. But the AP reports that shortly after Bondi received a $25,000 contribution from Trump in 2013, the Florida attorney general’s case against Trump University was dropped.
Bondi referred the AP’s requests for an interview to Marc Reichelderfer, her political consultant. Reichelderfer said Bondi did speak with Trump personally “several weeks” before it was announced that Florida was considering joining New York in suing Trump University.
“The process took at least several weeks, from the time they spoke to the time they received the contribution,” Reichelderfer told the AP.
According to the AP, “Reichelfelder said that Bondi was unaware of dozens of consumer complaints received by her office about Trump’s real-estate seminars at the time she requested the donation.” It added that “more than 20 people requested help from the Florida attorney general’s office in obtaining refunds from Trump University.”
The AP also pointed to Texas, where Greg Abbott, then the state’s attorney general, received $35,000 in campaign contributions from Trump in 2013, three years after Abbott’s office dropped a proposed lawsuit over Trump University. A spokesman for Abbott said the case was dropped after Trump agreed to stop offering his seminars in Texas.
“The unthinkable has happened — the media’s obsession with Donald Trump is now leading them to highlight the job then-Attorney General Abbott did in protecting Texas consumers,” spokesman Matt Hirsch told the Houston Chronicle.
Both Bondi and Abbott have endorsed Trump for president.
“By choosing not to pursue Trump in court, the GOP attorneys general left the unhappy students in their states on their own to try to get refunds from the celebrity businessman,” the AP concludes.
But cases of fraud involve more than simply unhappy customers. Litigants must present evidence in court proving that they’ve been victims of fraud, and it remains to be seen whether that will happen in the lawsuits against Trump University.