The Republican Party of Florida has waited years to have an Attorney General like this. Pam Bondi not only was a star on FOX News, but now is an RPOF superstar being exported to the national stage thanks to the ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act.
As the Republicans solidified their hegemony over the state during the late 1990s, they badly wanted a partisan Attorney General who would implement a doctrinaire conservative interpretation of the law. In many cases conservatives misinterpret the law, manipulate its intent while misrepresenting the debate and discussions behind the passages of these laws. This should not come as a shock considering we are discussing a political party that has actively promoted anti-intellectualism as a part of its appeal to voters.
The GOP finally gained the office for the first time post reconstruction in 2002. That year a three way Republican Primary had been won by Charlie Crist, who was anything but a reliable conservative. Many establishment Republicans and Tallahassee insiders backed Locke Burt for the Attorney General’s post feeling that Burt, who was an insurance man, would be sufficiently partisan despite a less than conservative record on some social issues. The other candidate, former Martin County Rep. Tom Warner, served as Bob Butterworth’s Solicitor General and was always considered a moderate. However, Crist was the victor and the next four years activist conservatives became less and less comfortable with their Attorney General. He was, after all, a populist whose conflicts with Governor Bush sometimes spilled into the open. For example, in 2003 Crist publicly called for an investigation into oil companies for price gouging. This was a no-no for any GOP official in the era of a Bush Governorship and Presidency. Crist also made clear his disdain for the handling of the Terry Schiavo affair by both the national and state GOP leadership.
With Crist safely kicked up stairs to the Governorship, Republicans hoped for better luck with Bill McCollum whose partisanship was often on display with the House Judiciary Committee in Washington. McCollum rallied from behind to defeat Democrat Skip Campbell, whose lackluster campaign has made McCollum appear more moderate than he really was. McCollum did push a partisan agenda but sometimes stopped short of open warfare with liberals and assaults on activist judges which have became the staple of the GOP agenda in the last decade.
Enter Pam Bondi, whose prior claim to fame was a conservative hack on FOX News’ Hannity show, one hour of pure right wing drivel. Bondi won a competitive three way Republican Primary in 2010 and then benefited from a conservative tide and political attacks bordering on slander towards Dan Gelber, the single legislator most qualified to be Attorney General in the State of Florida in order to win her office. Bondi and her surrogates waged a campaign of fear and demagoguery about “Obamacare,” feminism and “radical environmentalism.”
In office Bondi has proven to be the partisan Florida Republicans long craved. Her agenda as Attorney General has not been to protect Florida’s consumers or working class but to protect corporations, insurance companies, polluters, high profile law firms, mortgage companies and other entities pushing a conservative viewpoint. Unlike Bob Butterworth, who approached law enforcement in a non-partisan way and even appointed a Republican Solicitor General, most of Bondi’s appointments have been strictly ideological and partisan.
This week, Bondi’s profile has once again been raised as she has been a frequent guest on conservative shows regarding the Affordable Health Care Act ruling. Bondi has consistently manipulated facts about the law passed by Congress in 2009, misinterpreted its intent and application and railed for political reasons against President Obama and Speaker (now Minority Leader) Pelosi. One wonders whether Bondi deliberately misinterprets facts for partisan purposes or simply does so because she doesn’t understand the law.
Once again, Florida Republicans have demonstrated that they cannot govern effectively without forcing ideology down the throats of our citizens. The one relatively non-partisan Republican elected statewide in recent years was Charlie Crist and it is no coincidence he is now registered as an NPA and has personally endorsed several Democrats this election cycle.
Pam Bondi is a disastrous Attorney General for our state. Elections do have consequences and when Democrats are divided thanks to Tallahassee insiders or disorganized on the local level we end up with statewide officials like Bondi.