Saturday, June 4, 2016

Trump University scandal looking more like corruption? Trump made political donations to attorneys general who dropped investigations

During the first Republican primary debate last August, Donald Trump outlined his model of success as a businessman and real estate mogul dealing with political bureaucracies, in an effort to explain away his past political donations to Democrats — including Hillary Clinton — and call out American campaign finance as corrupt.

This week, while Trump railed against the judge who unsealed the documents in a lawsuit against Trump University, blasting him as fundamentally biased because of his “Mexican heritage,” new reports revealed how exactly Trump leveraged his political contributions to get him out of legal trouble.

“It’s fraud. … straight-up fraud,” Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York who launched a lawsuit against Trump University in 2013 that is still pending, said during an MSNBC interview on Thursday morning.

But some Republican Attorneys General who received complaints from constituents about Trump’s for-profit “educational program” reportedly disagreed with Schneiderman’s assessment, dismissing complaints against Trump University around the time the businessman made substantial political donations to their election efforts.

An Associated Press report released on Thursday highlighted two such cases from former Texas attorney general Greg Abbott and current Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Abbott, now the state’s governor, reportedly opened a civil investigation into “possibly deceptive trade practices” when Trump University made inroads in Texas, but “Abbott’s probe was quietly dropped in 2010 when Trump University agreed to end its operations in Texas.”

“Trump subsequently donated $35,000 to Abbott’s successful gubernatorial campaign, according to records,”  the AP reported.

According to the former deputy director of Texas’ Consumer Protection Division, Abbott’s decision to drop the case was clearly motivated by Trump’s political involvement.

“The decision not to sue him was political,” John Owens told The Dallas Morning News“Had [Trump] not been involved in politics to the extent he was at the time, we would have gotten approval. Had he been just some other scam artist, we would have sued him”:

According to internal documents provided to The News about the state’s investigation into Trump University, the consumer protection division filed a formal request May 6, 2010, to sue both Trump and his namesake real estate program. Five days later, it set out settlement options to help Texas taxpayers get back the more than $2.6 million they spent on seminars and materials, plus another $2.8 million in penalties and fees.

Both requests were denied, an unusual decision, Owens says, that was made at the top of the agency.

“The refusal of the administration to do anything stunk,” said Owens, a career state employee who worked under three attorneys general and received a commendation for having “greatly contributed to the accomplishments of our office” from Abbott upon his retirement in 2011.

Full story

No comments: