Dirty Laundry

October 11, 2020

By Steve Stofka

On Friday, the New York Times released more of Donald Trumpā€˜s tax records (Craig, Mcintire & Buettner, 2020). They reveal a money laundering scheme that Mr. Trump used to fund his 2016 campaign. In the closing months of the campaign, few Republican donors wanted to bankroll his bid for the Presidency, and he was short of funds.

The train to Vegas. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid tried to put together a project for a commuter train from California to Las Vegas. When the entire project was done, residents of the L.A. area would be able to take a train to Las Vegas instead of making the arduous drive via the I-10 and I-15 freeways. Anyone who has driven this route on a Friday can swear that it evokes Chris Rea’s song The Road to Hell.

By the time the project funding was put together five years later, Republicans controlled the House and several of their leaders rejected the idea. One was Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and later Mr. Trump’s Attorney General; the other was Paul Ryan, the head of the House Budget Committee. They insisted that the project be built using American products; it couldn’t be done. Germany, Japan and China have become the global leaders in train manufacturing.  

Vegas real estate tycoons, including Mr. Trump and his Vegas partner Phil Ruffin, would have benefitted greatly from the train traffic. The likelihood of such a project would be revitalized if Mr. Trump were President. Out came the checkbooks and the big Republican “whales” from Vegas, including Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, contributed to the Trump campaign. His partner, Phil Ruffin, routed money through a shell company to Mr. Trump who used it to fund his campaign.

Although a court would have to decide, some of the campaign contributions were probably illegal. If Mr. Trump is elected again this year, he will shield himself from any prosecution and he would probably help protect others from adverse legal proceedings.

On Saturday, the newspaper was releasing still more evidence that Mr. Trump has used the Presidency to rescue his failing company from a heavy debt load. His hotels were already struggling before the Covid virus swept the world this year. Each new revelation indicates that Mr. Trump has built a house of cards like the Ponzi scheme built by Bernie Madoff, the former head of NASDAQ.

If Mr. Trump loses the election, he will face a legal and financial reckoning that he has delayed for the four years of his Presidency. His erratic and belligerent behavior may be partly in desperation. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, commented that if Mr. Trump were still his client, he would recommend that Mr. Trump resign the Presidency before his term is out, then arrange for Mr. Pence, his Vice-President, to issue him a pardon for any pending Federal crimes.

Mr. Trump is the first presidential candidate to “self-fund” his campaign and be successful. Surely, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have learned a lesson. Are we a better country if a person can buy the Presidency? I think not.

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Notes:

Photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

Craig, S., Mcintire, M., & Buettner, R. (2020, October 09). Trump’s Taxes Show He Engineered a Sudden Windfall in 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/09/us/donald-trump-taxes-las-vegas.html

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