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Now, let's talk about using bankruptcy to your advantage...


While most of the excitement over Donald Trump Monday involved either his friendliness to the KKK or Marco Rubio's speculation about Trump's itsy-bitsy penis, we would also like to remind you all of something else that Donald Trump promised would be yooge, classy, and would stand forever, but instead turned out to be remarkably unsatisfying, and shriveled away to nothing incredibly quickly: Trump University, his scammy scheme to sell people the Trump Method of getting rich through real estate investments.

[contextly_sidebar id="KuOyQ9oY4B90Z3ce7NGsm8wEXpJ3jvZZ"]First it went out of business, then New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the Trump Organization for fraud, and more recently, the fakey-fake "university" was hit with two class action suits by students who believed they'd been ripped off. The scam finally became a campaign issue last week when both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio brought up the failed "school" during the Republican debate. Rubio hammered Trump on the "fake school" several times over the weekend as evidence that Trump is a "con man," a shocking claim that no one has apparently thought to level at the tycoon previously.

So just how scammy was Trump University? For one thing, since it wasn't licensed and fell far short of any legal definition of a university, the New York Education Department pushed Trump for years to change the name. Before it eventually folded altogether, it changed its name to the "Trump Entrepreneur Institute" in 2011, because anyone can get together and call themselves an Institute.

Still, just look at what a classy promotional video it had!

The problems went well beyond the name, as Mother Jones pointed out when Schneiderman sued Trump. According to the suit, Trump U advertising touted the instructors' expertise, claiming that students "would be taught by successful real estate 'experts' who were 'handpicked' by Donald Trump." The reality was a little different:

Not a single one was "handpicked" by Donald Trump. Many came to Trump University from jobs having little to do with real estate investments, and some came to Trump University shortly after their real estate investing caused them to go into bankruptcy.

Also, while ads for the "university's" three-day investment seminars often hinted that the Great Man just might put in a personal appearance -- never exactly promising Trump would show up but merely saying he "is going to be in town" or "often drops by" -- the closest most students ever got was "the chance to have photos taken with a life-size photo of Donald Trump."

Trump has made much of the "98% approval rating" given to the classes, a point he repeated at the debate. It turns out the "course evaluations" weren't anonymous, and instructors cajoled students to give the classes a high score so maybe they'd be "invited" back for more mentoring in the Art of the Deal. In some cases instructors even "filled out the forms themselves or pressured students into giving them higher scores[.]" So Trump University got great evaluations, just like Saddam Hussein always won 99 percent of the vote. Still, Trump loves high ratings and high poll numbers, so his organization has launched a website named 98percentapproval.com.

Above all, "Trump University" was a money-making scheme disguised as an educational program: at every step, from the free 90-minute "introductory seminar" on, the marks "students" were pushed to buy the next level, promised that they'd learn the really juicy secrets of success when they bought the next package. After completing the $1495 three-day "seminar," they "were told they had to purchase additional programs to get the help they would supposedly need -- and that they would fail if they did not continue at Trump University." God knows you wouldn't want to fail, because that would make you a Loser. Some 800 poor souls paid for the top packages, at as much as $35,000 a pop, only to find that instead of personal mentoring from a millionaire investment expert, they could call an 800 number. Which wouldn't get answered.

As for Trump's defenses of his fine educational institution, you may be astonished to learn that they're mostly hooey. Please, stop standing there slack-jawed; it's unbecoming. At the debate, Trump claimed,

I’ve won most of the lawsuits. … It’s a case that is nonsense. It’s something I could have settled many times. I could settle it right now for very little money, but I don’t want to do it out of principle. The people that took the course all signed -- most, many, signed -- report cards saying it was fantastic, it was wonderful, it was beautiful.

Which means nothing, considering the high ratings were often coerced. Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuits also point out that many of those high ratings were given to the 90-minute free session, before they'd been subjected to the full, expensive "Trump University" experience. As for winning "most of the lawsuits," that's a pretty weird claim, considering that the three big ones are still ongoing. As WaPo's fact checker notes,

[Trump] appears to be referring to certain rulings by judges in the three lawsuits that were favorable to Trump. For example, one ruling in 2014 dismissed the motion for an injunction by Schneiderman. The motion was denied because Trump University is no longer operating.

Tara Makaeff, a lead plaintiff in one of the class-action suits, has withdrawn from the case, not because she thinks Donald Trump is the kindest bravest warmest most wonderful educator she's ever known, but precisely the opposite: her attorney's motion to withdraw says, "Subjecting herself to the intense media attention and likely barbs from Trump and his agents and followers simply would not be healthy for her." What? Trump supporters, rude? The very idea! But hey, that's a "win" too, right? It's perfectly appropriate to say you've won a court case after a couple things have gone your way, isn't it?

We should mention there's been at least one actual judgment in a case involving dear old Trump U, and it didn't go Trump's way. After Tara Makaeff filed her class-action suit, Trump attorneys counter-sued her for defamation, based on complaints she'd made online about the "school." After four years, Makaeff won the defamation case and was awarded court costs.

Now, about all the successful, satisfied customers of Trump University: Where are they? How many people became millionaires after learning Donald Trump's business secrets? We found a profile of one satisfied customer -- who said that the classes "gave him confidence and energy" -- but he doesn't claim to have become rich. Instead, he opened a restaurant in St. Lucia, ran it for a year, and then moved back to Seattle. But at least he broke even.

On "Meet The Press" Sunday, Chuck Todd tried to find out if Trump University had produced any real estate moguls, and Trump was, shall we say, evasive:

Well people did succeed, people did succeed and we have those people will be witnesses at the trial...

Trump didn't have any more to say about the great success stories. Instead, he kept repeating the lines about the bogus 98 percent approval rating, attacking those suing the "school" as money-grubbing malcontents, and claiming the "school" has an "A" from the Better Business Bureau -- which, if you're keeping score, is also not true.

In other words, Business As Usual for Trump, who's being unfairly attacked by liars and cheats.

[Mediaite / Mother Jones / National Review / WaPo / San Diego Union-Tribune / Photography is Not a Crime / Business Insider / NBC News / Politifact]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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