The orange-faced reality TV star’s improbable Republican campaign for President, which has thus far thrived on Trump’s incessant race baiting and childish insults, is finally starting to crumble faster than one of the bankrupt Trump Casinos in New Jersey. For $1495, a student could buy access to Trump University’s “fulfillment” seminar, which was supposedly a one year apprenticeship which would teach Trump’s “business strategies” and everything they needed to know to get rich quick. Instead, the 3 day seminars mainly consisted of Trump’s shysters getting unsuspecting ‘students’ to divulge their financial information, raise their credit limits or empty their 401ks in anticipation of becoming a real estate tycoon, promising that “you’ll learn how to finance your deals using other people’s money.” Instead, “students” at Trump “University” learned the hard way about how Donald evidently made his fortune- by misrepresentation, extortion, and illegal business practices. It’s unknown if one of the lessons involved getting a “small loan” of a million dollars to start their business careers.
Once the rooms were sized up during “fulfillment,” ‘instructors’ working from their “playbooks” from Trump “University” would turn up the pressure for ‘students’ to purchase Elite “mentoring packages” which ran in price from $20,000 to $35,000. None of these courses ever followed through with promised contact with reality TV star – instead, students were offered a chance to take photos with a large photograph of Trump. They were promised lessons from multimillionaire mentors “hand picked” by Trump – except these mentors weren’t picked by Trump and often had little experience in real estate, many of whom took jobs with Trump University once they’d gone bankrupt with their own failed investments. Once a ‘student’ coughed up the big bucks, ‘instructors’ would keep looking to sell more add-ons, live events and basically, just to keep swindling their rubes out of cash. Yep. They paid to be scammed, and once scammed, the scammers just kept asking for more in a con that resembled a Ponzi scheme more than it did an education.
Donald Trump took out print ads across the country promising unsuspecting ‘students’ that he’d personally help them at Trump University to, “take advantage of the $700 billion bailout” passed by George W. Bush in 2008. Trump’s national scam to fleece the middle class began with a “FREE” 90 minute shakedown, which he described in 2008 advertising as, “a billionaire is offering you 90 minutes of free advice. No, this isn’t a misprint.” Luring in unsuspecting fans, the billionaire invited them to, “Be Donald Trump’s guest at a FREE investor workshop and learn how you can profit from the largest real estate liquidation in history,” the 1%’s term for last decade’s complete collapse of the national housing market and the largest transfer of wealth in history, which sent millions of Americans into homelessness, financial ruin and unquantifiable pain.
The New York State Education Department wrote the billionaire “educator” almost immediately after Trump University was founded in 2005, warning that using the name “university” without a license was illegal, as Trump University did not confer degrees or have any certifications or license to operate. Trump University LLC responded by creating a mail-drop office in Dover, Delaware and kept operating out of the Trump Offices at 40 Wall Street for five more years. Trump’s offices were even central to the pitch, telling prospective ‘students’ that, “other people don’t have anyone to call, but you’ve got Trump. You’ll call 40 Wall Street and they’ll walk you through it.”
Trump’s nationwide shakedown team of “handpicked” instructors was really a bunch of high-pressure salespeople who did little more than push overpriced sham courses and mentoring, without providing any real estate education at all, no matter how much someone paid. Trump’s left his victims anywhere between $1495 to $36,500 poorer, many of them true believers from the good old days when he was just a cartoonish reality TV star. The fake Trump University collapsed into a pit of state investigations and lawsuits by New York’s Attorney General and multiple consumer class action lawsuits under the civil Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act also known as RICO. It’s the same law used by the US Government to prosecute the Mafia, but legal precedents since it started in 1970 show that one doesn’t require a connection to organized crime to be penalized for running a criminal enterprise.
According to one of the many lawsuits Trump faces for his fraudulent University, his instructor’s “playbooks” had this statement solely to fleece regular people by stressing The Donald’s personal involvement: “Trump University is owned, lock, stock and barrel by Mr. Trump — it’s his `baby,’ his company, designed to help him accomplish his goal of leaving a legacy.” Ironically, it is looking very much like Trump University will define the bigoted blowhard’s legacy, though not in the way he probably imagined. Anyone who’s watched even snippets of the
Republican debates insult carnivals will remember the accused racketeer who tried to run for President as a populist fighting for the little guy, all the while knowing that he’d actually spent years fleecing regular people across America in premeditated fashion.
Sadly, Trump’s victims were predominantly middle class Americans, many of whom were small business-men and the elderly, many of whom misplaced their trust because they loved his entertainment on The Apprentice and were hoodwinked by Trump’s insistence on plastering his name on everything he was associated with – enough to trust the diabolical Trump with their 401ks. Bearing an army of confidence men, who said that anything you spent on his University would come right back, Trump University’s pitches echoed televangelists pitching the bogus prosperity gospel. Maybe that’s why Trump thinks he’s being audited for being Christian.
The beginning of the end came in June 2010 when the New York State Education Department nailed Trump U. with a cease and desist order, demanding that “all current students should be refunded.” Instead of stopping, Trump’s baby was renamed the “Trump Enterprise Institute” but scaled back its activities rapidly as 11 states investigated the scam. Meanwhile, former Trump University students haven’t gotten back much if at all, and many are still to this day suing in court to try and reclaim their “tuition” which bought little more than time with Trump’s predatory salesmen masquerading as hand picked instructors and offering courses created by companies that produce materials for an “array of motivational speakers and seminar and time-share rental companies” – scam factories for shysters, grifters, and con artists..
Will Trump’s followers keep buying his offer to mentor the country after belatedly paying attention to the real live tragedies left in the wake of the billionaire’s money making schemes? Time will tell, but at least we know one thing – one of the few times Jeb Bush was right was when he predicted that one of the candidates would spend most of his time going from the White House to the courthouse if elected.
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 cusses 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.
See one of Trump University’s ads below, printed in a December 2008 edition of the Arizona Republic:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.