Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Florida’s attorney general needs the wisdom of the duck

The time has come to incorporate inductive (inducktive?) reasoning into the Florida Constitution. The ancient Duck Test could be Pam Bondi’s great legacy.

The attorney general clearly needs help in diagnosing the obvious. And if Florida's chief law enforcement can't figure out that certain traits add up to an aquatic bird, well, imagine the confusion that might afflict other government leaders.

They need guidance. Hence my proposed amendment: “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

Bondi could certainly benefit from the ducky formula. In her case: If it acts like a lobbyist, picks up the check at five-star restaurants like a lobbyist, pays her way to exotic resorts like a lobbyist, makes political contributions like a lobbyist, solicits special favors like a lobbyist, arranges intimate meetings with corporate clients like a lobbyist — well, Pammie, I believe you've been played by a big, fat duck.

Bondi’s confusion has to do with a Washington D.C.-based outfit called Duckstein... no... make that Dickstein Shapiro. Both the New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times have reported on the generosity the swell folks at Dickstein Shapiro have shown our attorney general. Dickstein Shapiro has underwritten fabulous trips for Pam, making sure that she need not be bothered with niggling irritants like airfare, hotels, meals and liquor bills. They made sure lots of money went into her reelection campaign.

In return, Dickstein Shapiro operatives got to cozy up to Pam and introduce her to corporate clients who just happened to be in a spot of legal trouble. Suddenly — perhaps it was just a grand coincidence — Bondi’s office lost interest in pursing consumer protection cases against tax-dodging online reservation companies, a suspect hospital bill collector, a vitamin peddling scheme, for-profit education ripoffs, and 5-Hour Energy, though attorneys general in 33 other states have gone after the beverage company for misleading advertising claims. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said, “Plainly and simply, in Oregon you cannot promote a product as being effective if you don’t have sufficient evidence to back up your advertising claims.”

Plainly and simply, it doesn’t work that way in Florida.

Yet Dickstein Shapiro, despite appearances to the contrary, claims it isn’t a lobbying firm. Dickstein Shapiro isn’t registered in Tallahassee as a lobbying firm — the subject of a complaint filed last week with the Florida Commission on Ethics. “It seems reasonably clear what these people are doing is lobbying,” stated Charles Swofford, the complainant.

It might seem clear. It might look like a lobbying firm. It might act like a lobbying firm. It might be lobbying the hell out of Pam Bondi. Dickstein Shapiro, however, claims to be only a law firm, engaging in legal work. Though one might have thought that an attorney general, of all people, would have noticed that her lawyer-not-lobbyist buddies weren't licensed to practice law in Florida.

But I think I know why Pam's confused. She never heard it quack.