Donald Trump continues to make headlines around the country as he struggles to piece together some kind of coherent presidential campaign a tad more sophisticated than bombastic potshots at his rivals. So far he’s managed to keep growing in popularity despite his blunders, but a new set of lawsuits may finally knock him down a peg.
In keeping with the flagrant narcissism which defines Trump and his “businesses,” it would appear that at one point Trump attempted to start his own “university” where he would teach students his “investing techniques” and how to get “rich” like him. It is unclear if any of those lessons involve “getting a small loan of a million dollars from your father” – or whether they let the students know that “no major US company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years.”
Indeed, “students” at Trump “University” learned the hard way about how Donald evidently made his fortune- by misrepresentation, extortion, and illegal business practices. UTrump launched in 2005 as an online course; it did not confer degrees or had any certifications and was forced to change its name in 2010 to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative because the State of New York found that it was misleading and almost illegal for the scam to call itself a college.
When they held seminars, students were promised a visit from Trump – who never showed up; instead they were offered a chance to take photos with a large photograph of Trump. He claimed he had “hand-picked” instructors for the courses – but the “teachers” at this “Ivy League caliber” “institution” were in fact private contractors who made commission selling the courses. The Trump contractors had little experience in real estate; indeed, many of them came to Trump University after their failed investments made them bankrupt. None of them were hand-picked.
The “lessons” had nothing to do with Trump’s “business strategies,” – they were developed by a third-party company that produces materials for an “array of motivational speakers and seminar and time-share rental companies” – a scam factory for grifters and con artists. CNN Money reported the lawsuit against Trump “alleges that the University would “upsell” students in its initial free seminar to buy a $1,495 “one year apprenticeship” — which was effectively a three-day seminar. Then if they bought that, the teachers would upsell them again to buy “mentorships” at a cost of $10,000 and up. The most expensive, the Gold Elite program, cost $35,000.”
Trump is being sued by a former student, Art Cohen, who apparently had the poor sense to drop $36,000 to learn how to get rich quick. The States of California and New York have also filed a class-action suit against the business magnate for stealing thousands of dollars from would-be students.
The legitimacy of Trump’s candidacy rests with his “successes” as a business man and the idea that he is just a regular guy like his supporters. He swears like them, empathizes with them, tells them what he wants to hear. They trust him because he’s not a career Republican politician like the ones in Congress who don’t care what the citizens they ostensibly represent want; they trust him because he seems detached from the corruption of Washington. We need to hit him with the failures of Trump University. If we can show them that Trump is just another huckster scumbag who has screwed over everyday American people before and will again, then we can start to chip away at the energy and emotional foundation of his campaign and show them that the Emperor truly has no clothes.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.