Trump scammed Atlantic City. Will he do the same to America? | Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
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on June 15, 2016

Here is a look at Donald Trump's 25 years as an Atlantic City casino owner.

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While Donald Trump is out smearing all Muslims for terror attacks and banning the press from covering his campaign events, let's not forget what he did in Atlantic City.
 
Some supporters have been willing to overlook his imbroglios, because he's pitched himself for the presidency largely on his business acumen. He says we should trust him to manage our country because of his keen business sense.
 
But should we, really?

Consider the evidence. One of his highest profile ventures, his bankrupted Atlantic City casinos, was a slow-motion failure in which many investors and small business owners got fleeced — while Trump himself made millions.

He's since spun this as a sign of foresight, by arguing he got out of Atlantic City at just the right time. In fact, as a recent investigation by the New York Times makes clear, his casinos began failing long before competition from other states turned up the heat. This failure belongs to Trump himself.
 
Trump didn't make millions by building a successful company, in which his stake was valuable — he did it by creating a failing company, in which he paid himself a high salary while shifting his personal debts to his struggling casino company; so when it all went belly-up, it wasn't his neck on the line.
 
He baited people with big promises about his brand, then started his casinos with their money — and by borrowing at such high interest rates that the businesses had virtually no chance of succeeding, after telling regulators he would not do exactly that.
 
Then Trump looted the casinos. He pulled their cash into his other real estate ventures, used it to pay off his personal loans, maintain his private jet and pay himself millions in salary and bonuses. In one instance, he withdrew more than $1 million from his failing public company in ways that experts say may have been illegal, but were never investigated.

As a result of his narcissistic, destructive risk-taking with other people's money, his casinos posted huge losses while others thrived. The losers were the investors, the creditors and subcontractors who didn't get paid — people like Beth Rosser's father, who ultimately earned only 30 cents on the dollar for the work of his building company.
 
"Trump crawled his way to the top on the back of little guys, one of them being my father," Rosser, who now runs the company, told the Times. "He had no regard for thousands of men and women who worked on those projects. He says he'll make America great again, but his past shows the complete opposite of that."
 
Nevertheless, Trump hails his bankruptcies as a sign of business success — because he came out richer. He called Atlantic City "a very good cash cow for me for a long time."
 
So was Trump University, which preyed on low-income people with promises of Trump's real estate tips, driving them into debt for what amounted to a worthless "degree" and a photo-op with a cardboard cutout of the Donald. Seriously.
 
That was "just straight up fraud," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. "It's like selling people something you say is a Mercedes and it turns out to be a Volkswagen."
 
Given this history, it's curious that Trump won't release his tax returns, as Hillary Clinton and every other major presidential candidate in modern times has done. This would tell us, among other things, how big his fortune really is, and how much of his empire he actually owns.
 
You wonder what he's trying to hide here. Not that any Republicans from Atlantic County, who endorsed him for president, seem to care. And what says Christie? When our governor signed legislation last month to help Atlantic City avoid bankruptcy, he criticized local officials for "their tendencies of wasteful spending and mismanagement."
 
Tendencies now personified by the man he endorsed for president. Does he really want Trump to do for America what he did in Atlantic City?

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