Moody, until now a low-profile figure nationally, has quietly and quickly become a major Republican player in must-win Florida, proving to top GOP leaders across the country that she’s willing to leverage her office in an election year. And Moody stands to benefit whether Trump wins or loses: She could prove to be a formidable foe to Joe Biden, becoming a voice of opposition to a newly liberal Washington, or take advantage of being a key White House supporter in coming years.
“She’s incredibly talented and she’s exceptionally helpful as a political figure,” said Brian Ballard, a Republican fundraiser and lobbyist who once represented Trump. She’s a “huge asset” and has developed a good relationship with U.S. Attorney General William Barr, he said.
A senior adviser for the Florida Trump campaign called Moody “one of the best surrogates we have.”
This doesn’t mean that Moody, who was backed in the 2018 Republican primary by outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi, has embraced the demonstrative passionate defense of Trump like her predecessor.
But her actions still appear to be at odds with her campaign promises that partisanship would have no place in her office.
She repeated that stance in an interview at the end of her first year in office with POLITICO.
“I did not campaign to be the attorney general to play politics with this office,” Moody said. “In my term as attorney general I will never do the bidding of anyone except the people of the state of Florida.”
Yet Moody — prodded in a phone call by DeSantis — made the decision to ask state and federal law enforcement officials in late September to investigate Bloomberg after it was announced the former New York City mayor had raised $16 million to help pay off court debts for people with felony convictions so they could register to vote. The move came right after a federal appeals court upheld a contentious voting law passed in 2019 that required felons to pay off outstanding legal financial obligations in order to be eligible.
In her push for an inquiry, Moody cited a Washington Post story that quoted a memo from the Bloomberg camp that said the money would help restore eligibility to Black and Hispanic voters, who are more likely to cast ballots for Democrats.
Public records obtained by POLITICO show that Moody had not seen the memo cited in the Post article.
But Moody made the move after other Trump allies likened the Bloomberg campaign to bribing voters to turn out for Biden. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz was among Republicans who personally discussed the Bloomberg donations with Moody.
A Bloomberg spokesperson, Jason Schechter, has emphatically rejected the accusations against the former New York City mayor, and the push for a probe was denounced by Desmond Meade, the head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group that is paying court debts of released felons. So far the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has said it looking at information related to the donations but has not announced an investigation.
Moody declined recent requests for an interview but she has taken to conservative media to defend her decision.
“This went well beyond just an altruistic donation just to help people,” Moody told Newsmax, a conservative outlet sympathetic to Trump. “This was targeting a particular segment of folks to give over something of value to vote.”
Moody is an unlikely partisan pitbull. Her father was a judge, appointed to the Middle District of Florida in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and she’s followed a career path that’s well-worn in Florida politics.
At the University of Florida, she was president of Florida Blue Key, a well-known student leadership group whose alumni includes Florida governors and U.S. senators from both parties. After working for a federal prosecutor, Moody, at 31, was elected a circuit judge in Hillsborough County, an urban area that includes Tampa. In 2006, her home county split politically: Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson won Hillsborough, as did Charlie Crist, at the time a Republican, in the race for governor.
She stepped down from the bench to run for attorney general, picking up the support of Bondi, a friend and fellow UF graduate. But Moody’s GOP credentials came under fire during a combative primary when her rivals noted she was a registered Democrat until early 1998, the same year Jeb Bush was elected governor.
Moody and members of her family once accused Trump of fraud in a dispute over a Tampa condominium project that was never built. The case was settled in 2011 and Moody has said she cannot discuss it.