Pam Bondi to Supreme Court: Deny Blind-Trust Petition

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: May 20, 2014 3:55 AM
Pam Bondi, Jim Apthorp, Rick Scott

Pam Bondi, Jim Apthorp, Rick Scott

Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday called for the Florida Supreme Court to deny James Apthorp's petition asking for an "emergency" invalidation of a statute that allows political candidates to keep their investments in blind trusts.

Responding just before noon, Bondi said what petitioner Apthorp and his attorney, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, are asking is "to invalidate a statute that has been on the books for more than a year and to outlaw a practice that has been in place far longer."

Apthorp, chief of staff to Reubin Askew, one of Florida's most popular governors, and D'Alemberte, the former American Bar Association president representing him, filed the petition with the state high court Wednesday, claiming a year-old Florida law that allows elected officials to place their assets in a blind trust instead of reporting each investment publicly violates the state Constitution.

By their very name, Apthorp told reporters during a Wednesday press conference, blind trusts violate the "full and public disclosure" language of the Sunshine Amendment.

D'Alemberte, respected former president of the American Bar Association, helped rally some of the state's largest newspapers to file supporting briefs with the court. D'Alemberte helped Askew draw up the Sunshine Amendment in 1967.

The lawsuit calls on the Supreme Court to strike down the law and block any candidates from qualifying for the ballot unless they file a full disclosure of all their finances. Financial disclosures are usually submitted during June qualifying, about two weeks away.

Only one candidate has investments in a blind trust, according to the 2013 law -- Gov. Rick Scott. 

In her response, Bondi said of Apthorp, "He asks the court to change candidate qualification rules after one statutory qualifying period ended and just before another begins. And he seeks to impose on the secretary a new duty to evaluate financial disclosure documents for 'fullness,' when the Election Code specifically provides that the secretary may not look beyond the documents’ four corners."

Bondi's summary conclusion: "This court should deny the petition because there is no basis for jurisdiction, there is no merit to the legal claim, and there certainly is no emergency. ... Petitioner’s claim is that a candidate with a qualified blind trust cannot satisfy the 'full and public disclosure of financial interests' the Sunshine Amendment requires. See Art. II, § 8(b), Fla. Const. Petitioner is wrong ..."

The ethics package that was one of the top priorities of Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford in 2013 -- Senate Bill 2 -- includes and spells out blind trusts. The bill was passed unanimously. It was not challenged by any organization, even the First Amendment Foundation.

In 2010 blind trusts were recommended twice: once by a statewide grand jury and second by the Florida Commission on Ethics. They were seen as a vehicle for elected officials to avoid the appearance of conflicts between their public duties and private interests.

Gaetz and Weatherford filed a brief of their own, explaining the law and what a blind trust accomplishes:  "A qualified blind trust removes the temptation of a public official to advance his or her private interests over the public good. Without any knowledge of the particular assets held by the trust, the public official lacks even the ability to act in his or her self-interest."

Melissa Sellers, Rick Scott's campaign manager, issued this written statement on behalf of the governor:

"Governor Scott will comply with whatever the courts decide. If the courts believe the governor’s blind trust should be dissolved, the governor will gladly dissolve it.” 

The Supreme Court issued a tweet Monday afternoon announcing it has made available all briefs and documents in the blind-trusts case -- Case No. 14-924 -- in Acrobat format and its own file. Click here.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (6)

the blind following the blind
4:52PM MAY 20TH 2014
The people of Florida with brains don't have to have Rick Scott disclose his blind trust holdings - they already know who his partners are and where his money come from. MEDICARE FRAUD! And if he wasn't guilty of crimes he would not have had to plead the 5th 75 TIMES!

What a lot of people did not know (because Scott lied and denied) is Rick Scott is a long time Bush machine insider. Partner with George W. Bush & Tom Hicks in the Texas Rangers! Then in 1987 he and partner Richard Rainwater with the help of Jeb Bush moved in a picked up the (already in progress) Medicare Fraud schemes in place by Jeb & partner Miguel Recarey @ International Medical Centers. That was just like taking candy from a baby! My oh my - it pays to be #65 on George W. Bush's give to receive plan - it's even better than winning the lottery because you can use the proceeds to by the governor's office and privatize, privatize and privatize while the jock pot keeps rolling in!
2:06PM MAY 20TH 2014
Well since she got involved we know what the outcome will be. She will lose again. She has been no lucky charm for this Governor or our GOP Legislators or this State. The money we have lost because of her.
10:46AM MAY 20TH 2014
Please bondo don't try and practice law anymore,,it's embarrassing !
Why would this surprise anyone above ground
9:29AM MAY 20TH 2014
Anyone not suffering from that dreaded disease rectum cranial inversion already knew this would never get to first base. After all who anointed the "Supreme law of the land of Florida?" the same gang of Republicans that they protect today!

And P. S. Former Jeb Bush Supreme Court appointment Raoul Cantero III (grandson of former Cuban Dictator Fulgenio Batista) who resigned to go back to Miami suddenly reappeared to represent the Florida legislature in it's "criminal conspiracy with consultant's" to control congressional districts. So stay tuned to the outcome of this Leon County "circus" Court case and you will easily be able to determine if the establishment owns this judge or not. And can anyone please explain why the Republican Party of Florida is paying for the lawyers to defend these consultants? If you hired someone to do a job and they either screwed up that job or committed a crime or fraud while performing that service for you, would you feel obligated to pay for their lawyers? Especially when you paid that person over $5 million to do the job you hired them to do. So is the case with Data Targeting.
Correction - It ws more than $6.2 million over three years
9:48AM MAY 20TH 2014
The plaintiffs say they will show Pat Bainter, head of the Gainesville-based political consulting firm Data Targeting, was instrumental in providing the data detail that helped legislators draw maps to Republican advantage.

Bainter, who was paid more than $6.2 million over three years by the Republican Party to provide data analysis and political consulting for legislative races, has demanded the courtroom be closed when his emails and planning documents are entered in trial. He argues the documents should be deemed trade secrets.

Lewis rejected Bainter's request to close the courtroom when any of the 538 pages of the confidential documents are discussed. Bainter has appealed to the First District Court of Appeal for a asking the court to stay Lewis' order. The Republican Party is paying Bainter's legal bills.

The appeals court DCA agreed with Bainter, and ruled Monday the plaintiffs may not discuss Bainter's documents during the trial until the court reviews Bainter's claim. A decision is expected Wednesday.
7:13PM MAY 20TH 2014
The current administration has made a complete mockery of the State's so-called "Sunshine Laws ". With Bondi leading the charge, this legislature has placed more and more business dealings-and their own chicanery-off limits to those who employ them-the taxpaying public. After the last few years of Scott's rule, I would vote for a brick outhouse instead of any of the Republicans who are running the State.
Scott set a high bar for his administration; steal as much as possible and keep the fast -disappearing middle class ignorant. Sadly, far too many of our current lawmakers (not representative leaders) took this adjunct to heart and gleefully ran with it. It is not only the politicians in Washington-their counterparts in Tally go into politics not to do good, but to do well. (for themselves) .Unbridled greed is the main course in Tally these days.

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