The Hill, one of the most reputable newspapers in Washington, reports this afternoon Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is a hair's breadth away from going to work for Donald Trump's White House.
Doing what -- drug czar? Not necessarily. Nobody's saying yet.
"According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs, the president-elect's aides are working to finalize (Bondi's) role in the Trump administration," writes The Hill.
Sunshine State News reported Dec. 3, during the course of the president-elect's job interviews, that Bondi had an appointment at Trump Tower in New York the day before.
Bondi was one of the first elected Republicans to endorse Trump and is, by anybody's estimation, a strong Trump loyalist. She was a fixture at all of his campaign events in the Sunshine State, like the warm-up act at a big-time rock concert. And Trump made her a member of his transition team.
Bondi allegedly was the beneficiary of a legally questionable gift from the Trump Foundation at a time when she was looking into potential charges against Trump University. It's a story that won't go away any time soon. Trump has said he'll shutter his foundation to avoid conflicts of interest as president. Investigations of the foundation's activities, however, are ongoing.
What happens to the position Bondi vacates in Florida?
According to Florida statute, if the departing attorney general has less than 28 months to serve, the governor appoints the AG's replacement -- no confirmation by the Legislature needed.
So, who will it be, a placeholder or a genuine attorney general candidate who can win in 2018?
With the Legislature already in session, will Gov. Rick Scott risk offending Senate President Joe Negron, who some say covets the attorney general spot himself in two years? Certainly Scott, with his own budget priorities, doesn't want to make an enemy of Negron. In that case, he would opt for the placeholder.
Here are two possible placeholders:
Pete Antonacci: Executive director of the South Florida Water Management District since fall 2015. A general counsel to Scott from 2013-2015 and a former state attorney in Palm Beach County, Antonacci served as a governing board member at the Northwest Florida Water Management District from 2006 to 2012. From 1991 to 1997, he was Bob Butterworth's deputy attorney general, where he managed major litigation involving a variety of issues, including state lands.
Tom Grady: A former one-term state representative, a Naples securities lawyer, prominent Republican and friend of Gov. Rick Scott. Scott appointed him to sit on the Florida Board of Education. During his brief tenure in the House, Grady was notable for billing taxpayers for flying on private planes owned by a campaign donor. He was also interim president of Citizens Property Insurance, but got in trouble for racking up large hotel and travel expenses on the states dime and creating a new job for his former legislative aide.
If Scott wants to leave his own mark, add a legacy achievement to his tenure as governor and overlook Negron's rumored ambitions, he could appoint Jesse Panuccio.
Panuccio is electable. He is widely considered a rising star with credentials to mount a successful candidacy for Florida attorney general in 2018.
Panuccio joined Scott's administration as deputy general counsel in January 2011. In 2012, the governor appointed him his general counsel. In those roles, Panuccio represented the governor and the state in several significant constitutional challenges, including challenges to drug testing of state employees and welfare recipients as well as a required state-worker pension contribution. He also advised the governor on judicial appointments and served as chief ethics officer for the Executive Office of the Governor. Scott appointed Panuccio executive director of a cobbled-together Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in January 2013. At the time, Panuccio was 32 years old, youngest agency head in Florida government. Scott appointed him to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission in January 2016. Panuccio went to work for the Ted Cruz presidential campaign, and in June joined Foley & Lardner LLP as a partner in the Miami, Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee offices.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
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