Being beaten up by media has toughened her up, Bondi says

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:33 p.m.

Being attorney general of Florida is the greatest job in the world, says Pam Bondi, the current holder of that office, even if it means getting beaten up by the media and by the groups that have criticized her on issues from the environment to medical marijuana.

And she likes it so much, she wants another four years as the state's top prosecutor.

"I love being attorney general. It is where I can make the most impact," Bondi said during an appearance Thursday night at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. "I don't think four years is enough to do what we want to do."

About 125 people came out to hear Bondi, who talked about her many successes during her controversial term as attorney general and laid out the blueprint for her campaign to get elected to a second term. Bondi is Florida's 37th, and first female, attorney general.

Bondi took credit for closing down the rash of pill mills in South Florida that were doing big business selling illegal prescription drugs. She claimed victory in getting a $9 billion mortgage settlement for defrauded Florida homeowners. She touted her office's fight against Medicaid fraud.

She said she was proud of her efforts to secure $8.9 million to provide 508 treatment beds for babies born addicted to prescription medication. "They don't cry," she said. "They shriek."

Bondi also outlined her plan to protect seniors against fraud, shut down synthetic drug manufacturers, come up with anti-bullying initiatives and make sure Florida receives its share of damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement.

For all her accomplishments, she said she keeps getting beaten up in the press. "You get beat up. You can't do anything right," she said.

Bondi said she had to learn to develop a thick skin and stop reading the papers or watching TV. At the same time, she mentioned Carl Hiaasen's recent column in the Miami Herald attacking her for filing a brief last week supporting a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint.

The blueprint, a joint effort between several counties, the Environmental Protection Agency and the District of Columbia, was upheld by a federal judge, according to the Hiaasen piece. But Bondi was not suing on behalf of Florida residents, Hiaasen said. She was suing on behalf of Big Agriculture.

"Nobody wants dirty water," Bondi said. "This is about EPA overreach."

Bondi said the opposition to the plan was bipartisan and that she didn't file a suit but signed a letter of support that was drafted by attorneys general from other states.

"I will continue to support efforts to rein in the EPA," Bondi said.

Bondi said she wanted people to believe that she really was bipartisan, directly addressing Bob Graham, seated in the front row, for not wanting to seek higher office.

"My father and grandfather loved you," the Republican attorney general said to the former Democratic U.S. senator and Florida governor.

She said she has worked on several initiatives with attorneys general from other states from both parties.

Despite her attempts to appear nonpartisan, Bondi had to address the very partisan effort she led in the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, which she admitted was very partisan.

She defended her efforts to keep the initiative to legalize medical marijuana off the ballot as part of doing her job as the state's top law enforcement agent.

"My job is to make sure people know what they are voting for," Bondi said. One of her criticisms of the initiative is that Florida residents would be voting on something that is a violation of federal law.

She also said the definition of "debilitating illness" was too broad, and she said it could allow a doctor to prescribe marijuana to minors under the right set of circumstances.

However, she said, if it passes and becomes law, then she will uphold the will of the people and defend it, "because that's my job."

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