mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Yet Another Fraudulent Operation”: Move Over, ‘Trump U,’ The New Scandal Is The ‘Trump Institute’

The scandal surrounding “Trump University” is already an albatross for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The entire enterprise has been accused of being a con job, ripping off “students” who trusted the developer’s name.

But as it turns out, there’s a new, related controversy surrounding the “Trump Institute,” which is something else. The New York Times reports today that the Republican candidate “lent his name, and his credibility” to this seminar business, which offered Trump’s “wealth-creating secrets and strategies” for up to $2,000.

The truth was something else altogether.

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial – one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.

All things considered, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) referred to Trump as a “con man,” the senator may have been on to to something.

Consider the revelations from recent weeks:

* Those who ran “Trump University” have faced credible allegations of stuffing their own pockets by preying on the vulnerable, selling unsuspecting students snake oil at indefensible prices and through misleading claims.

* Trump has boasted at great length about the millions of dollars he’s given away through charitable donations – though many of these donations don’t appear to exist and many of the promises he made publicly went unfulfilled.

* A considerable chunk of Trump’s campaign fundraising went to Trump corporate products and services, giving rise to a new word for the political lexicon: “scampaign.”

* And now the “Trump Institute” is facing allegations of being yet another fraudulent operation, complete with bogus claims, shady characters, and “the theft of intellectual property at the venture’s heart.”

The Timesreport added:

The institute was another example of the Trump brand’s being accused of luring vulnerable customers with false promises of profit and success. Others, besides Trump University, include multilevel marketing ventures that sold vitamins and telecommunications services, and a vanity publisher that faced hundreds of consumer complaints.

Mr. Trump’s infomercial performance suggested he was closely overseeing the Trump Institute. “People are loving it,” he said in the program, titled “The Donald Trump Way to Wealth” and staged like a talk show in front of a wildly enthusiastic audience. “People are really doing well with it, and they’re loving it.” His name, picture and aphorisms like “I am the American Dream, supersized version” were all over the course materials.

Yet while he owned 93 percent of Trump University, the Trump Institute was owned and operated by Irene and Mike Milin, a couple who had been marketing get-rich-quick courses since the 1980s.

I realize, of course, that there are many voters who trust Donald J. Trump’s word. I’m less clear on why.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump Institute | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Declares War On The Press”: Trump Thinks He Literally Deserves A Constant Stream Of Praise And Kudos

This morning, Donald Trump held a press conference to answer questions about a fundraiser he held four months ago on behalf of veterans’ groups, and perhaps more so than ever before, he made explicit his contempt for the media that have given him so much attention over the past year. Not only that, he promised to continue to attack them whenever they fail to give him the kind of coverage Russian state-owned media give Vladimir Putin.

It was little short of a declaration of war.

The ostensible purpose of the event was to address that fundraiser, particularly the shifting stories and outright falsehoods about it that have come from Trump and his staffers. In recent weeks there have been questions about whether Trump had raised what he claimed, how much of it had actually been distributed, and perhaps most troublingly, the fact that on that night in January Trump said he had given $1 million to veterans’ groups, which was false. When the Post’s David Fahrenthold and other reporters began investigating where the money had gone, they found no evidence that Trump had given $1 million to any veterans’ group. Then last Monday — four months after he claimed to have given his donation and only after reporters’ questions had become more frequent and pressing — Trump finally called the head of a veterans’ group to tell him the group would be getting a $1 million donation from him.

When Fahrenthold asked Trump whether he had given the money only because he was getting questions from reporters about it — a perfectly reasonable question to ask — Trump replied, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re a really nasty guy.” That was a preview of what happened today.

In this press conference, Trump was as ridiculous as ever — he must have claimed “I didn’t want the credit” for raising money for veterans at least a dozen times, which is sort of like Kim Kardashian saying “I really don’t want to be famous.” But he spent most of his time attacking the media.

We should understand that Trump is hardly alone among politicians in disliking the media or thinking that his coverage isn’t what it should be. Where he differs is in the other things he believes. Trump thinks he literally deserves a constant stream of praise and kudos from reporters. He thinks that any challenging question from a reporter is not just inappropriate and unfair but evidence that the reporter is a terrible person. He thinks that it’s reasonable for a presidential nominee to look a reporter in the face, point at him, and say “You’re a sleaze,” for no reason other than that the reporter asked a question premised on something other than the idea that Donald Trump is a spectacular human being everyone should constantly be applauding.

“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. Reporters “are not good people,” he said. “The political press is among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met,” he said. “The press is so dishonest and so unfair,” he said, without identifying a single thing anyone in the media said on this topic that wasn’t true. When ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked Trump about his well-known penchant for exaggeration, Trump said, “What I don’t want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He’s a sleaze in my book.” When Llamas asked why, Trump responded, “You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.” And this may have been the most revealing part:

“Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying ‘Who got it, who got it, who got it,’ and you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”

He actually believes that it’s the job of political reporters covering a presidential candidate to write “Thank you very much, Mr. Trump.” It’s not the press’ job to discover the truth or ask questions or hold the powerful accountable; their job is to promote him and compliment him. And when he doesn’t get the glowing coverage he wants, he attacks.

I’m trying not to get tired of saying this, but just try to imagine what the reaction would be if Hillary Clinton came out to defend herself against some perfectly reasonable questions, and said “The press should be ashamed of themselves” or pointed to a reporter and said, “You’re a sleaze.” She wouldn’t be criticized or questioned, she’d be crucified. Reporters would ask if she had lost her mind and was having a nervous breakdown. There would be demands for her to pull out of the race immediately, since she had shown herself to be so unstable.

It’s going to be a real challenge for reporters covering Trump to continue to ask the questions they ask of every candidate, to demand answers and to point out falsehoods — which is already a herculean task when it comes to Trump, since he delivers so many of them. That’s not easy to do when you know your subject is going to assault you over it. And it’s not likely to change.

“Is this what it’s going to be like covering you if you’re president?” one reporter asked near the end of the press conference.

Trump’s reply: “Yeah, it is. I’m going to continue to attack the press.”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Press, Reporters | , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Donation That Did Not Exist”: Caught Fibbing, Trump Scrambles To Address Veterans Controversy

In a normal year, in a normal party, with a normal candidate, it would be the kind of controversy that effectively kills a presidential candidate’s chances of success. In January, Donald Trump skipped a Republican debate in order to host a fundraiser for veterans. He boasted at the time that he’d raised $6 million for vets – which led to a related boast that Trump contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.

The Washington Post reported this week that Trump’s claims simply weren’t true. He did not, for example, raise $6 million. And what about the $1 million check the Republican bragged about? His campaign manager insisted this week that Trump did make the contribution.

Except, that wasn’t true, either. The Post reported last night:

Almost four months after promising $1 million of his own money to veterans’ causes, Donald Trump moved to fulfill that pledge Monday evening – promising the entire sum to a single charity as he came under intense media scrutiny.

The check is apparently going to a group called the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, whose chairman received a call from Trump on Monday night, the day the campaign controversy broke.

Let’s put aside, for now, why the Trump campaign said he’d made a donation that did not exist. Let’s instead ask why it took nearly four months for the candidate to do what he claimed to have already done.

“You have a lot of vetting to do,” Trump told the Washington Post yesterday.

That might be a decent response were it not for the fact that the New York Republican doesn’t appear at all interested in vetting veterans’ groups – as the story of the sketchy “Veterans for a Strong America” helps prove.

CNN, meanwhile, reported last night that when it comes to the candidate’s support for veterans’ groups, there have been “discrepancies between the amount of money Trump touts, and the amount actually donated.”

You can find one example right on Trump’s own website, where Trump boasts of saving an annual veterans parade in 1995 with his participation, and a cash donation, “Mr. Trump agreed to lead as grand marshal,” and “made a $1 million matching donation to finance the Nation’s Day Parade.”

Trump did save the event, according to the parade’s organizer, but he didn’t give $1 million to it.

He actually donated “somewhere between $325,000 and $375,000” – about a third of what he claimed – and Trump was not the parade’s grand marshal, a honor reserved for actual veterans.

CNN’s report has not been independently verified by NBC News, but if accurate, the revelations will only make the controversy more severe.

I can appreciate why some observers get tired of the “imagine if a Democrat did this” framing, but in this case, it’s worth taking a moment to consider. If Hillary Clinton and her campaign had been caught making blatantly false claims about donations to veterans’ charities, is there any doubt that it would be one of the biggest stories of the election season? How much punditry would we hear about this being proof about Clinton’s dishonesty and willingness to say anything to get elected?

Postscript: Asked about the January fundraiser, and his claim that he’d raised $6 million for veterans, Trump told the Washington Post yesterday, “I didn’t say six.” Reminded that he did, in reality, use the specific $6 million figure – out loud, in public, on video – Trump changed the subject.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Veterans | , , , | 1 Comment

“The Romneys Get Theirs”: How MItt Romney Used His Church’s Charity Status To Lower His Tax Bill

We already know that Mormon Mitt Romney has been tremendously generous to his church, giving over $5 million in the past two years alone, but now we learn that his charitable activity with LDS may not have been entirely altruistic. Bloomberg’s Jesse Drucker reports that Romney exploited the church’s tax-exempt status to lower his tax bill.

Romney reportedly took advantage of a loophole, called a charitable remainder unitrust or CRUT, which allows someone to park money or securities in a tax-deferred trust marked for his or her favorite charity, but which often doesn’t pay out much to the nonprofit. The donor pays taxes on the fixed yearly income from the trust, but the principal remains untaxed. Congress outlawed the practice in 1997, but Romney slid in under the wire when his trust, created in June 1996, was grandfathered in.

The trust essentially lets someone “rent” the charity’s tax-exemption while not actually giving the charity much money. If done for this purpose, the trust pays out more every year to the donor than it makes in returns on its holdings, depleting the principal over time, so that when the donor dies and the trust is transferred to the charity, there’s often little left. The actual contribution “is just a throwaway,” Jonathan Blattmachr, a lawyer who set up hundreds of CRUTs in the 1990s, told Bloomberg. “I used to structure them so the value dedicated to charity was as close to zero as possible without being zero.”

Indeed, this appears to be the case for Romney’s trust as well. Bloomberg obtained the trust’s tax returns through a Freedom of Information Request and found that Romney’s CRUT started at $750,000 in 2001 but ended 2011 with only $421,203 — over a period when the stock market grew. Romney’s trust was projected to leave less than 8 percent of the original contribution to the church (or another charity that he can designate). This, along with the trust’s poor returns — it made just $48 in 2011 — suggest the trust is not designed to grow for the LDS church but just serve as a tax-free holding pool from which annual payments can be disbursed to the Romneys.

This is hardly the first tax-avoidance strategy Romney has employed. It’s well known that he holds offshore bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, but he has used more obscure vehicles as well. There’s the “total return equity swap,” where a taxpayer calls a stock he owns by another name and doesn’t pay taxes on it. There’s the way he’s been avoiding gift and estate taxes through a trust that he set up for his children and grandchildren. And there’s the neat trick whereby private equity firms claim that management fees are capital gains and thus qualify for a lower tax rate than straight income. Bain Capital was known for pursuing an aggressive tax-mitigation strategy (they’re now under investigation for it), and so was Marriott Hotels when Romney was an influential board member.

And it’s not just taxpayers who lose out. “The Romneys get theirs off the top and the charity gets what’s left,” said Michael Arlein, a trusts and estates lawyer at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP. “So by definition, if it’s not performing as well, the charity gets harmed more.”

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 31, 2012

November 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: