Last summer, Donald Trump explained his past habit of making campaign contributions to Democratic Party elected officials as being part of a cynical effort to bribe them to advance his business interests. Perhaps coincidentally, it turns out that a couple of state attorneys general who considered formal fraud investigations into his fake university received Trump campaign contributions after deciding to drop them.
"As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do," Trump said. "As a businessman, I need that."
He later elaborated during a Republican debate, "I was a businessman, I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me."
One example of recipients of Trump's largesse being there for him seems to relate to fraud investigations into his fake university.
That's what Jeff Horwitz and Michael Biesecker report for the Associated Press in their story on fraud probes into Trump University by state attorneys general:
As scores of students complained that Trump University was a ripoff, the Better Business Bureau in 2010 gave the school a D-minus, its second-lowest grade. State regulators also began to take notice.
The office of then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, opened a civil investigation of "possibly deceptive trade practices." Abbott's probe was quietly dropped in 2010 when Trump University agreed to end its operations in Texas. Trump subsequently donated $35,000 to Abbott's successful gubernatorial campaign, according to records.
Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, launched a lawsuit against Trump University in 2013 that is still pending. And Horwitz and Biesecker report that "Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi briefly considered joining with Schneiderman in a multi-state suit against Trump University."
But it ultimately didn't happen:
Three days after Bondi's spokeswoman was quoted in local media reports as saying the office was reviewing the New York lawsuit, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution to a political fundraising committee supporting Bondi's re-election campaign. Bondi, a Republican, soon dropped her investigation, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.
Modeling campaign contributions as typically driven by this sort of quid pro quo corruption strikes me as mistaken. It's not unreasonable to expect that Republican Party attorneys general typically have an ideological commitment to lax business regulation and that businessmen whose business models involve shady practices would just sincerely want to promote the careers of people with those ideological convictions.
But Trump himself has publicly and repeatedly explained his donations as driven by a crasser transactional model, and it would certainly be interesting to see him address what was going on in these particular cases.