Republican nominee Donald Trump and reviled Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, have a relationship going back further than anyone may have realized. The New York Times reports that after Trump’s failing Atlantic City casinos racked up as staggering $30 million of unpaid taxes, Christie took office and $25 million of Trump’s tax burden was conveniently written off. It is not clear from public records whether Christie was personally involved, but a deal was clearly struck with upper echelons in New Jersey government and it’s hard to see how he wasn’t.
Trump and Christie came into the spotlight together in 2015. After years of grossly mismanaging New Jersey, Christie launched an inevitably doomed presidential bid in the Republican primaries. Alienating voters with his abrasive personality almost immediately and became Trump’s grovelling right-hand man, desperate to be named as Trump’s vice presidential running mate. Trump, realizing what a toxic politician Christie is, and thoroughly enjoying his humiliation of Christie, refused to take him on.
Perhaps Christie was expecting Trump to return a favor. When Trump started in Atlantic City, he refused to put any of his own money into the casinos, financing them instead with junk bonds and personal debt. He repeatedly landed his businesses in bankruptcy court, even when Atlantic City was thriving. Investors, and eventually shareholders, foolishly bet on Trump’s reputation as a competent business man. As Trump paid himself millions in salaries and benefits, and used casino revenue to pay off his personal debts, stock and bondholders lost over $1.5 billion.
It is in the shadow of this reprehensible business record full of borderline legal scams and trickery that Trump managed to evade $25 million of owed taxes. Based on what is available in the public records, we cannot say whether Trump got away with barely legal corruption, or was on the wrong side of the law. Whatever happened, it is clear that Trump got away with scamming shareholders, evading taxes, and enriching himself in the process.
The vice president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank, gave a harshly critical statement:
“Most of us New Jerseyans will never have the luxury of having nearly all of our tax debts to the state wiped clean. The fact that Trump’s casinos were able to game the bankruptcy system to avoid paying their fair share of New Jersey taxes, while at the same time enriching those who led them to financial disaster in the first place, is the latest proof that the economy is rigged against ordinary working people.”
The economy is rigged indeed. Perhaps the worst aspect of Trump’s dealings in New Jersey is that everything he did might actually have been legal. The case speaks volumes about the corporate corruption the pervades all levels of American politics, and the ease with which the rich can make themselves richer at the expense of everyone else.
Did Trump receive an illegal favor from Christie? Possibly. What we know for sure is that Trump works hard to avoid paying the taxes he owes, and is a deceptive businessman who profits off of hardworking Americans. Trump is not a ‘blue collar billionaire’; he is the billionaire’s billionaire, motivated purely by self-interest, and he always will be.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.