A prominent attorney and outspoken politician, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has a strong history of fighting for the progression of our Sunshine State through the legal system. A graduate of the University of Florida, as well as the Stetson Law School, Bondi has successfully worked her way up the leadership ladder. As the state’s attorney general, Bondi has fought to eradicate several notable public issues, including drug abuse and human trafficking. Additionally, Bondi has appeared on several cable news programs and worked for Fox News as a legal analyst. Bondi is the first woman Attorney General of the State of Florida.
Bondi is fluent in Floridian. She raves about the state’s natural landscape, specifically the Florida Everglades. She mentions photographer Carlton Ward’s Florida Wildlife Corridor project. “It’s a documentary. […] It starts at the tip of Miami, and they trek basically, all throughout the Everglades, and the Everglades are very important to me of course, and Florida forever. All throughout the Everglades, up through our entire state. I think the Everglades, and all of our beautiful parks and Florida, are so important.”
Before Bondi became the 37th Attorney General of Florida, she became a member of the Beta Lambda chapter of Delta Delta Delta during her time at the University of Central Florida. Bondi has been known to visit the award-winning international sorority and is continuously celebrated by the chapter for her post-graduation achievements.
Link mentioned in this episode: YouCanStopHT.com
Chris Cate: Welcome to the Fluent and Floridian podcast, featuring the sunshine states brightest leaders, talking about the issues most important to the people of Florida and its millions of weekly visitors. I’m your host, Chris Cate, and in this episode, brought to you by SalterMitchell PR. I talk to Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi. In our conversation, we talk about the role her father played in her decision to run for Attorney General, and about what makes Florida a unique state to be an Attorney General. We also talk about General Bondi’s efforts to fight drug abuse, [00:00:30] particularly the opioid epidemic, and about her efforts to end human trafficking. And of course, I ask about being a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. And you can hear it all right now.
Well, I thought it would be great to have you on this show, because your office is involved in so many important issues to our state. When you were growing up, could you see your self having a role like you do today? Were you some who always enjoyed the art of debate, and trying to find solutions?
Pam Bondi: Well, my mom and dad would certainly tell you that I loved the art of debate. I love finding [00:01:00] solutions. I really, frankly, never wanted to practice law. My dad was my mentor, and going to law school … He totally talked me into going to law school, by telling me, “It’s great that you have a law degree, even if you choose not to practice.” Then, it all changed from there.
Chris Cate: Your father was the Mayor of Temple Terrace. Can you tell me a little bit … He wasn’t elected official in that role. Can you tell me a little bit about, he did influence your run for Attorney General, and [00:01:30] kind of preparing you for life in public office.
Pam Bondi: Well, you know, Temple Terrace is a small city. He was paid a dollar a year, which of course he framed. You know, it was honorary, but I think he worked just as hard as, of course any full time mayor would ever work, because there was a city manager. I was a little, little girl, you know, when he was sworn in as mayor, and that he was a city councilman, and then a mayor. It was a great time. When I was little, I was kind of embarrassed that my dad was mayor of my hometown … [00:02:00] He loved it. I loved him very, very much and we lost him to Leukemia a few years ago, and it breaks my heart that he couldn’t see me speak at this convention. He was there when I spoke at the last convention, but his Leukemia had kicked in, and so he had to stay home and watch it on TV.
Chris Cate: Well, I’m sure he would be very proud of you today.
Pam Bondi: Thanks.
Chris Cate: Can you tell me … What makes Florida a unique state to be Attorney General?
Pam Bondi: [00:02:30] Well, we’re the third largest state in the country. I think we have a big platform to do really, really good things. Sadly, because we’re the third largest state though, human trafficking is a huge issue for us. All the drug abuse that I could talk about forever, is a huge issue for us.
But, you know, working, there are 56 Attorneys General throughout the country. We all work so well together. What people don’t get, 80, 90 percent of what we do is completely together bipartisan. [00:03:00] It’s the 10% of political things that are polarizing. We all work so well together. I was just on the phone this week, with Joe Foster, my counterpart from New Hampshire, because fighting heroin together. Heroin’s making a comeback. That’s the good thing about being in a state this big.
I was a career prosecutor for 18 years. I thought, “Gosh. I can’t …” I was so scared that I couldn’t make a difference, statewide. You really think that. I know what I can do in Hillsborough County. It’s [00:03:30] only a million people. It’s my hometown. Now there’s 20 million people. You can. You know, when we go out and we talk about the, youcanstopht.com for human trafficking, we’re saving a life, hopefully. We talk about synthetic drugs, and how heroins in a pill form now. We’re saving a life. If we can save one life, it’s worth it.
Chris Cate: You bring up drug abuse, that you’ve made a top priority. Let’s talk about that just for a second, because opioid abuse in particular, is getting major headlines, internationally [00:04:00] too.
Pam Bondi: Yes.
Chris Cate: It’s not just a Florida issue. What more can law enforcement, and the courts really do to curtail this epidemic?
Pam Bondi: Well, first of all the drug trades changing. You know, we can go back to the heroin … When was that big? In the 60’s, 70’s. Then it used to be a needle on a dark street corner at night. And now, it’s becoming mainstream again. We fought the synthetic drugs that you know. We fought the pill mills that you know, which was huge. The Oxycodone.
[00:04:30] If you look up on my case, I have pictures of kids who have died, as inspiration to me. And then, the young man down there, his mother came up to me, crying and handed me a picture and I thought, “Oh. I’m gonna have to frame another child, who’s died.” She said, “No. He’s alive. He’s in rehab, thanks to everything that Florida’s done to prevent these pill mills.” Now, we see a change there, but Heroins on the rise. Law enforcements doing an incredible job. [00:05:00] Sheriff Al, [inaudible 00:05:02], in Hernando County, just made a huge Heroine bust. That’s coming in a pill form now. It’s coming in a powder form. They’re making it into pills. Xanax pills, possibly Adderall pills. They’re selling ’em on the streets to kids, 19 to 23 or more.
In Pinellas County alone, five young people overdosed within a matter of a couple days, from taking, what they thought was a Xanax pill. And you think, “You know, it’s college. I’m in school. [00:05:30] Let me buy one off the street. It’ll help me study. I won’t be anxious for exams.” Don’t buy anything off the street. Anything. Anything. Don’t take anything, unless it’s coming from a prescription, or even if it’s … I’m telling you now. Even, if it’s a Tylenol. Take it from somebody you know. Never take anything from a stranger. They’re goal is to get you addicted, and you could drop dead. They’re mixing Heroine, Fentanyl, Par-Fentanyl, and something called, U47700, which we outlawed, which basically can tranquilize an elephant. Think what it can do to the human [00:06:00] body.
Chris Cate: Yeah. Those are very good points. Human trafficking was another issue, you brought up just a moment ago. It’s a horrific crime that has a devastating effect on its victims. I know you’ve taken some great steps to stop human trafficking. Can you tell me a little bit about your efforts to help victims of the crime, and what our listeners can do to help the overall effort to end human trafficking.
Pam Bondi: Thank you. The number on thing they can do right now, is go to this website. YoucanstopHT.com, for human trafficking. YoucanstopHT. [00:06:30] com. What that does, it gives you the signs of what to look for, for human trafficking. What we learned … First of all, how long have I been talking about this issue? When I start talking about this issue years ago, people were looking at me like I was crazy. “That doesn’t happen in our country.” It does. Now we know it does. We’ve trained the truckers. The truckers came to me and said, the Trucking Association and said, “Where do take a child to traffic ’em? A truck stop.” They’re now our eyes and ears. How cool is that?
The emergency room physicians [00:07:00] came to me and said, “We know we’re seeing signs of human trafficking in the ER. What do we do?” We trained them. We have a two hour training class online, that police officers, all over the state, that Sheriff Snyder helped put together, can take, to train them. We have a council on human trafficking, thanks to our great lawmakers and our governor, that I chair. We’re working on safe houses there.
I’ve actually been to Mexico City, to work with the Attorneys General there. At one point I called home, and if you ever saw, Breaking [00:07:30] Bad, I said, “I think I’m gonna be cut up in a million pieces, and die in a desert somewhere.” That’s how frightening aspects of it were. You know, I met an Attorney General there, who’s whole family was gunned down, based on the drug trade. That’s all tied into drugs and human trafficking, because the first thing you do … I say a child, but it could be a little boy. Our gay community … Parent find out the child’s gay, and sometimes kick him out on the streets. They’re sucked into this horrible, [00:08:00] horrible life and they’re immediately addicted to drugs.
In Mexico City, I went to a safe house with some of my counterparts throughout the country. That was one thing that they were doing better than we were. The safe house was at … We drove hours in the middle of nowhere. Pretty scared. They had armored cars. They had a car behind us, in case one of us got shot. Seriously. It was worth it. I met all these victims of human trafficking. We worked with the Attorneys General in Mexico, and in fact, I brought them to the middle district [00:08:30] of Florida, partnered with US Attorney, Lee Bentley, and we trained them on cyber crimes. That’s what they were lacking. So, safe houses. That’s how we can protect our victims.
Also, we need people out there to be our eyes and ears. I don’t know if you saw recently … This is the coolest thing. In Sacramento, there was an Uber driver … This gives me chills. An Uber driver picked up a fare, and it was a guy, and a young teenage girl. He’s just listening. He could tell that he [00:09:00] had control over her. It wasn’t a parent, child. It wasn’t a romantic relationship. He knew something was wrong. He called it in and he saved her life. He had a trafficker arrested.
Just recently, it was on, I believe an Alaska air flight, from Seattle to San Francisco. A flight attendant was watching a man on a plane with a young girl, and she knew something wasn’t right. She knew. He was exhibiting [00:09:30] control over. This I’m guessing. She wouldn’t make eye contact. These are your typical signs. You know, you can tell when someone has control over someone else. This flight attendant, somehow talked the girl into going to the bathroom, maybe perhaps when he got up. She went to the rest room. The flight attendant on her own, put a stickie in the women’s bathroom and said, “Do you need help?” The girl said, “Yes. Help me.” The police were waiting when that flight landed, and saved that girl’s life. That’s what we’re trying [00:10:00] to do now, is educated everyone.
Just my statewide prosecutors alone. You know, we’re a very small part of this, because we only do multi-jurisdictional cases. We have 20 state attorneys who prosecute. We have the three southern, middle, and northern district in Florida, with three great United States Attorneys, who prosecute … We all do human trafficking. Just my statewide prosecutors alone, we have 90 defendants right now. That shows how real it is.
Chris Cate: Yeah. To your point, the kind of the, see something, [00:10:30] say something. You can’t be afraid …
Pam Bondi: Yes.
Chris Cate: To go and speak up.
Pam Bondi: And that’s … Go to YoucanstopHT.com. And so, our council on human trafficking now, we’ve gotten great funding from the legislature to hopefully … We’re gonna get more safe houses, here in our state. That’s what we need to protect our victims, and to make ’em our witnesses … Think what you have. You have drug addiction. They’re forced into drug addiction. They’re addicted to drugs. They have the medical issues from being raped, dozens of times a day. Sometimes 30, [00:11:00] 40 times a day. Some of ’em are babies having babies. All kinds of issues that you have to deal with. They’re frightened. Sometimes they’re so brainwashed that they think they have to go back to their captors.
Chris Cate: Want to ask you a little bit about National Politics. You’ve been a loyal supporter of Donald Trump, even though people who support him, sometimes are getting criticized by the media. Actually, I think there’d be more public support of him, if people weren’t so afraid of the backlash. Why has it been important for you to stand up, and be an advocate for him?
Pam Bondi: [00:11:30] I believe in him. I believe in our country … I’m the chief legal officer for the state of Florida. When people said, they couldn’t vote for him, I said, I have two words for you, “Supreme Court.” And now I have two words for them. Neil Gorsuch. He’s gonna be a great justice. He’s a constitutionalist. He’s gonna follow the law. I can’t wait for Judge Gorsuch to be confirmed.
Chris Cate: Great. Well, I’ve got a quick final four questions that I ask every guest. There are no [00:12:00] right answers, so really, say what comes to your mind.
Pam Bondi: Okay.
Chris Cate: The first one is, What is your favorite Florida location to visit? It can be a city, a restaurant, a beach, wherever you like. What’s a fun place for you to visit?
Pam Bondi: [inaudible 00:12:12]. That was where I’ve been going since I was a little, little girl with my family. That’s probably my favorite place in the world. Many memories in the Gulf of Mexico, on a raft. I don’t know if I’m truly remembering them, or my dad’s telling me them, when I’m looking at pictures with my mom and dad, [00:12:30] and all my cousins. [inaudible 00:12:31] is my heart, with my entire family.
Chris Cate: Do you have a favorite Florida sports team?
Pam Bondi: Oh. Okay. Let’s start with … Hmm. This is easy. College football. Come on, I’m a Florida Gator. I love the Gators. But, I have always liked other Florida teams, unless they’re playing the Gators.
Chris Cate: Good.
Pam Bondi: So, but no wait … We gotta go college. Hold on. Pro. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Chris Cate: Yeah. Go Bucs!
Pam Bondi: I used to go to the games with my family since, you know, they started, since I was little. The Bucs, and hockey [00:13:00] of course. We’ve got the Lightning in Florida. Jeff Vinik’s doing an incredible job. Not only with the lightning, but everything he’s doing for the Tampa Bay community is unreal … That man’s a rockstar. And baseball … You’re not gonna like this, but I’m a New York Yankees fan.
Chris Cate: Oh.
Pam Bondi: They have been spring training …
Chris Cate: Yeah.
Pam Bondi: You know. Mr. Steinbrenner used to do more under the condition of anonymity than most people do publicly, to help people. I lived that when I was a prosecutor, so … I’m a die hard Yankees fan.
Chris Cate: Who is a Florida leader you admire. It can be someone [00:13:30] from Florida history, or someone still active, but who’s someone you admire?
Pam Bondi: Well, I think she’s a little bit of both. This is an easy one. Her name is Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich. She is a Federal Judge. She’s five feet tall. She is 80 years old, and a full time Federal Judge. She was Chief Judge. This incredible woman is trying 147 count cases, still, constantly. She’s been [00:14:00] on the bench, circuit court, and then federal, appointed by Ronald Regan. A total of 45 years.
Chris Cate: Wow.
Pam Bondi: Going strong. Her entire life has been devoted to public service and keeping our community safe. She tries cases constantly. I’ll call her and I won’t hear back from her for a couple days. She’ll go, “Well, I’m in a murder trial. In this trial.” She’s going non-stop. She’s truly just, an idol. I [00:14:30] think every, not only woman, but man, looks up to her in Florida.
Chris Cate: I hope I can still be going strong at that time.
Pam Bondi: I can’t keep up with her now. She’s a fireball. Five feet tall.
Chris Cate: And finally, what person, place, or thing deserves more positive attention than what’s getting maybe right now?
Pam Bondi: Well … Being a lifelong Floridian, of course. The Florida Everglades, and all of our beautiful parks, and waterways … That’s really something that I learned more about, being Attorney General. [00:15:00] Carlton Ward. He’s a photographer. He’s incredible. He started the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. It’s a film. It’s a documentary. You can go online and watch. It starts at the tip of Miami, and they trek basically, all throughout the Everglades, and the Everglades are very important to me of course, and Florida forever. All throughout the Everglades, up through our entire state. I think [00:15:30] the Everglades, and all of our beautiful parks and Florida, are so important.
If you’re gonna ask about a person … Law enforcement. Category. I can’t say one, because we had our law enforcement awards recently, and there are so many great first responders, aw enforcement officers, and our great men and women, who fight for our country. I tell anybody. If they pull you over for a speeding ticket, you go over and thank them. They’re out there every day, doing [00:16:00] this to save our lives.
Chris Cate: Yeah. There’s really not enough thanks we can give them.
Pam Bondi: That’s right.
Chris Cate: Well, thank you so much for being on the show.
Pam Bondi: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Chris Cate: Thanks for listening to the Fluent and Floridian Podcast. If you aren’t subscribed to the podcast yet, I hope you’ll look us up, and subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app, like Apple Podcast, Stitcher, or Google Play Music. If you leave a review, that would be great too. Thanks to my team at SalterMitchellPR for making this podcast possible. If you need help telling your Florida story, we’ve got you covered. We offer issues [00:16:30] management, crisis communications, social media, advocacy, and media relations assistance. We also have our own in-house creative and research teams. Look us up at SalterMitchellPR.com for more information. You can also find more information about the Fluent and Floridian podcast at Fluentandfloridian.com. Have a great day.