Rule of Law

Donald Trump's Record of Business Failures and Bluster

Trump earns support from Americans who think he has a Midas touch and will use his business skills to fix the mess President Obama has created. But a closer look at Trump’s record reveals his success story is just that — a story. How many of his supporters know about Trump University? Trump Air? Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, Trump ties, or the United States Football League?

Trump’s business history reveals someone skilled at making money at the expense of other Americans while his businesses fail, and a man who will say almost anything about these failures. And his legacy of business failures goes beyond the four bankruptcies of his Atlantic City casinos. It includes outsourcing jobs to China, ripping off students seeking an education, and leaving a path of devastated Americans in his wake.

Just ask Louis Piatt. He put his faith in Donald Trump before he concluded Trump University was a worthless scam. Trump University was an unaccredited program that was supposed to teach ordinary Americans how to hit the big time in real estate.

Professor Donald supposedly would offer personal lessons on how to make money. In a perverse way, Trump did. Trump University made money by fleecing regular Americans who saved and paid tens of thousands of dollars in tuition before it vanished. Trump University taught a harsh lesson in grifting.

What of Trump’s skill at “getting things done”? When it came to Trump University, it was mostly bluster. Trump used his personal brand to separate middle class Americans from their money. One pitch about the faculty from Dean Donald went like this:

And honestly, if you don’t learn from them, if you don’t learn from me, if you don’t learn from the people that we’re going to be putting forward, and these are all people handpicked by me, then you’re just not going to make it in terms of world-class success.

Trump University collapsed in a blizzard of lawsuits in 2010, and in 2013 the New York attorney general sued Trump University for $40 million for allegedly defrauding students.

Did you ever try Trump Vodka? Not many did. It was another Trump failure. But Trump boasted it would become the most requested drink in America, surpassed only by the Trump Martini. The marketing campaign was even more ridiculous in hindsight — the vodka was the “epitome of vodka and would demand the same respect and inspire the same awe as the international legacy and brand of Donald Trump himself.”

Trump Vodka marketing

Trump Vodka marketing

Then there were Trump Steaks, reviewed as expensive foul slabs of meat at Naturally, like Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks have vanished. One reviewer might have been speaking to voters in 2016 when he said:

These burgers were tasteless loaded with fat and very messy to clean up after. Trump stated on the air that they were low in fat and would be helpful to anyone who is trying to watch their weight. This just is not the case they are so full of fat that the color of these burgers are white with a little pink. I am no stranger to Angus beef and high quality lean cuts of meat — having a butcher in the family. I believe his burgers are not what they say they are.

Trump Steaks

In New Hampshire two weeks ago, Trump profanely threatened that if he is elected he would not only stop outsourcing jobs to China, but he would tell those CEOs who do so that they can go “f— themselves.”

It’s hard to imagine South Carolina voters want a president who speaks like this.

What Trump didn’t tell the crowd was that his own line of Trump neckties is manufactured in … China. Trump’s profane boast is part of his “say anything” approach to the presidential race.

Trump claims that his ignorance of most issues he would confront as president is excusable because he will hire “the best people.” Yet another Trump business failure — Trump Mortgage — shows that boast doesn’t square with the facts.

Trump hired E.J. Ridings to run Trump Mortgage. Ridings claimed to be a top executive at a prestigious investment bank. In fact, he had only worked on Wall Street as a registered broker for six days. So much for Donald’s eye for talent.

Instead of hiring top talent, the record shows Trump seems to prefer hiring his children.

Perhaps Trump’s most memorable failure, however, was his role in the collapse of the United States Football League. The USFL played in the spring and did well in the first few seasons because it did not have to compete with the NFL.

Enter Donald Trump to foul it up. In the league’s second year he bought the New Jersey Generals. Trump browbeat other owners into moving the USFL schedule from the spring to the fall, thereby taking on the National Football League. That started the fast decline of the USFL.

Steve Ross and Donald Trump

Steve Ross and Donald Trump

To make matters worse, Trump threatened a lawsuit against the NFL. He uses the same bluster on the campaign trail, threatening even to sue people who speak ill of him. Trump instigated an antitrust suit against the NFL. The outcome of the lawsuit was a joke, laughed at in law school classrooms to this day: Trump’s USFL lawsuit resulted in a mere $1 in damages (increased to $3 under federal antitrust law).

Think about that next time you hear Trump threaten to sue someone, or talk about his record in the courtroom.

Throughout all of Trump’s bankruptcies, business scams, and failed gambles, however, there has only been one constant — Donald Trump’s ability to come out on top. When he outsources jobs to China or rips off those who attended Trump University, it is American workers who bear the cost of his dealings, not Donald Trump.

Trump makes much of the claim that he is “self-funding” his campaign and thus immune to typical political pressures. Despite that claim, Trump is taking donations from the public.

When Ted Cruz stood up against the powerful ethanol lobby in Iowa, not only did Donald Trump refuse to do so, he actually led the charge on behalf of the ethanol interests. And how did Trump respond to his loss? He threatened to sue.

Standing up to special interests requires actually doing something to stand up against special interests, not just talking about it. Standing up for American workers and families actually means doing something to open markets and promote regulatory reform, not just hypocritically talking about it while looking out for himself at the expense of others.

Then there was Trump Air. The man who wants to be president managed to crash an airline focused on the lucrative Washington to New York shuttle market. Instead of offering a better product, Trump attempted to beat the competing Pan Am Shuttle by blustering that his competitor wasn’t safe. If that wasn’t enough, Trump wanted to overhaul his planes in style only Woody Allen’s Frenchy Fox-Winkler could appreciate. Trump wanted marble vanities in the lavatories and brass handles on the emergency exit handles.

Donald Trump is running a presidential campaign built on culture instead of ideology and issues. It is a culture furious with President Obama’s lawlessness and the failure of congressional Republicans to stop him. Unfortunately, the real culture of Donald Trump is a culture of bombast, bluster, and serial business failure. Perhaps this is the sort of person Americans want in the White House. Or perhaps they don’t know the sort of person Trump is.