By Doug Porter
An upcoming class action lawsuit involving allegations of financial fraud by former students of Trump University has San Diego in the news today. The Donald is among witnesses listed by attorneys for both sides leading up to a May 6th final pretrial conference.
Most of the stories mentioning this lawsuit seem to based on reporting by Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News. Senator Marco Rubio–who has his own problems with questionable for-profit colleges–brought up the subject of the lawsuits against Trump University at Thursday night’s GOP Presidential debate on CNN.
While I’m doubtful about suggestions of The Donald taking time off from his campaign to swing through America’s Finest City to testify, it’s telling that the GOP has finally gotten around to challenging his most basic claim to greatness, namely his business acumen.
The ABCs of Trump University
Even though it didn’t offer college credit or degrees, Trump University promised students “world class success” for attending real estate seminars in hotel ballrooms where the thermostats were set at a mandated 68 degrees.
A lawsuit filed by the State of New York alleged that the university was carrying out illegal business practices, and operating under false promises which left students thousands of dollars in debt.
The New York Attorney General accused The Trump Organization and Trump personally of shilling to the some 5,000 people enrolled across the country, a claim The Donald denied.
The GOP frontrunner appeared in advertisements for the school, claiming that he had handpicked its instructors and personally created the curriculum. The lawsuit found this to be completely false. Trump later admitted that he had no part in choosing the teachers or building the curriculum.
The supposed world-renowned instructors never seemed to make it to class, either. According a recent civil lawsuit brought against the university, the real estate lessons were often no more than an upsell, marketed at convincing prospective and enrolled students to join the next class level for an additional cost. For instance, the lawsuit claims that the first seminar was free, but designed to be followed up by another course which cost almost $1,500. A personal mentorship with a real estate elite (kind of like the ones college students can get for free in their professors) cost Trump University students $35,000 per course.
The 2013 lawsuit stripped the institution of the “university” in its name, and in 2014, a New York judge found Trump personally liable in the school’s violation of state education laws. For their part, Trump and his people have continued to defend the school and its practices.
The Atlantic Magazine reported on a document uncovered in the New York case giving insights into how the game was played at these seminars:
The playbook, prepared for Trump University seminars in Texas in 2009, might be summed up in one word: sell. Or as the playbook puts it on page 23, “Sell, Sell, Sell!” The playbook posits a “Minimum Sales Goal” of $72,500 per seminar, meaning that the seminars leaders needed to convince at least 20 percent of attendees to sign up for three-day seminars costing $1,495.
Under the heading “Registration Goal & Procedure,” Trump U. staffers are instructed to “Welcome attendees and build a Trump-esque atmosphere,” “Disarm any uncertainty,” and “Set the hook.” The hook in this case consists of selling seminar attendees on increasingly costly additional courses, culminating in the “Trump Gold Elite” package, for a cool $34,995. Pricey, yes, but the playbook notes that the list price of the Trump Gold Elite package is $49,415, a savings to students of 29 percent. Even before Trump University students had made their first real-estate transaction, they had managed to get themselves a deal, of sorts.
The seminars were usually held in hotel meeting rooms, and the playbook spells out in painstaking detail how the space should be set up. Chairs should be close enough together to give attendees sufficient space, while still “bringing attendees out of their comfort zone.” Room temperature should be set at “no more than 68 degrees.” A sales corral was to be set up within close proximity to the door, “so that attendees need to walk past sales tables in order to exit.” It was at the sales tables that Trump U. staffers would hawk the pricey seminar packages.
As soon as attendees entered the registration area, the song “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays greeted them. The tune had been used as the theme to Trump’s reality television shows “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice,” presumably because of the song’s incessant chant of “Money, money, money, money…money!”
NBC7 News picked up on this story, including details not covered elsewhere, including the fact that one of the lead plaintiffs in the case against Trump was dropping out:
Makaeff asked the court to be released from the case because of the stresses involved, according to court documents. The document claims the problems began when Makaeff was countersued by Trump attorneys for $1 million in damages.
According to the court documents, Makaeff said:
“I have been litigating my claims in good faith since filing the lawsuit in April of 2010. Shortly after I filed the lawsuit, Trump University filed a counterclaim, alleging defamation and seeking $1,000,000 in damages. While this Court ultimately struck that counterclaim, it caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety in the 4-year interim because I was very concerned that I could be bankrupted in the process. I have been deposed four times in this case, on January 30, 2012, January 31, 2012, April 13, 2012, and February 10, 2014. I searched for, and produced, relevant documents in response to numerous discovery requests from defendants in this case. I have stayed apprised of the litigation and have traveled to San Diego to participate in the Court’s Early Neutral Evaluation Conference in 2011 and Mandatory Settlement Conference in 2015. I no longer wish to serve as a class representative due to intervening personal circumstances.”
As Charles P. Pierce at Esquire noted:
So far, the defense case can be summed up in the maxim of common law which, translated from the Latin, can be read as “Sorry, suckers.”
Too Little, Too Late
Candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both went after The Donald in the CNN debate.
The Union-Tribune didn’t really pick up on the mention of Trump U, focused instead on issues related to immigration, including instances where undocumented immigrants were utilized on the Donald’s construction projects.
Until Thursday neither Rubio nor Cruz had mounted a sustained attack on Trump, allowing him to emerge relatively unscathed while they tried to win the mantle as Trump’s most formidable challenger.
Indeed, both Rubio and Trump had been focusing their attacks on Cruz, accusing him of lying and resorting to dirty tricks.
But Trump’s victory Tuesday in the Nevada caucuses, his third in the four early state contests, triggered a new urgency not only from his rivals but the party establishment.
Polling coming out of the CNN debate shows that, despite the attacks, fewer voters changed candidates than in previous face-offs. Marco Rubio has an excuse at the ready; it’s the media’s fault.
From the Washington Post:
Here’s one thing that indicates Rubio isn’t too confident in that regard. This morning he went on CBS News and blamed the media for failing to do its part to stop Trump’s march to the nomination — suggesting that the media is deliberately pumping up Trump in order to help Democrats win the general election. Here’s his full quote:
“The media’s pumping him up as some sort of unstoppable force. Donald Trump has portrayed himself now consistently as fighting for the working people. And he has a record of sticking it to working people for 35 years. If any other candidate in this race had his record, there would be nonstop reporting on it. Unfortunately he’s being pumped up because many in the media with a bias know that he’ll be easy to beat in a general election.
“So we’re gonna put a stop to it now. There’s no way we’re going to allow a con artist to take over the conservative movement.”
And then there’s this:
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 26, 2016
GOP chairman Priebus: “another spirited debate between most diverse/well-qualified group of presidential candidates in history.” — John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) February 26, 2016
Weekly Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Political Repression, the National Security State, and Collective Legal Resistance
Friday, February 26th, 7pm
9500 Gilman Dr (0323 UCSD Old Student Center)
Info & Updates
A discussion with Kris Hermes, author of Crashing the Party.
Over the past fifteen years, people in the United States—and dissidents in particular—have witnessed a steady escalation of the National Security State, including invasive surveillance and infiltration, indiscriminate police violence, and unlawful arrests. These concerted efforts to spy on Americans and undermine meaningful social change are greatly enhanced by the coordination of numerous local, state, and federal agencies often operating at the behest of private corporations. Normally associated with the realities of a post-9/11 world, Crashing the Party shows how these developments were already being set in motion during the Republican National Convention (RNC) protests in 2000. It also documents how, in response, dissidents confronted new forms of political repression by pushing legal boundaries and establishing new models of collective resistance.
Raise the Wage Signature Blitz Day
Saturday, February 27, 9am
SEIU Local 221
4004 Kearny Mesa Road, San Diego
Info & Updates
The Raise California’s Wage and Paid Sick Days Act of 2016 will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and guarantee that every full-time worker will receive at least six days per year to care for themselves and their families. Our signature drive is up and running, but we need to work together to qualify for the ballot in November.
*Coffee and food will be provided
We will have an update on the campaign, a training on the rules and best practices for signature gathering, and then collect the first local pile of signatures for the initiative. Bring a comfortable pair of shoes!
Radio Pulso Del Barrio Fundraiser
Saturday, February 27, Noon
Iron Fist Brewing
1985 National Ave (Barrio Logan)
Info & Updates
Radio Pulso Del Barrio is a non-profit online radio collective based out of Barrio Logan, operated %100 by volunteers of the community. We adviocate culture, activism, art, music and history. We are devoted to the the growth and empowerment of our community by giving residents a voice.
Your contribution will help sustain the station’s programming, community events, and operations.
Black Lives Matter Concert
Saturday, February 27, 8pm
2100 Park Blvd. San Diego
Info & Updates
This is an all ages event * This location is accessible
Artists performing are Kiyoshi Shelton, On-Key, Poetiic, Junkyard Dance Crew, Rhema K, Odessa Kane, Shardie Flenoid, Queen ‘Kandi Cole, Nat Z, Brian James, Ventage Truth, Anita D, Anthony Steele, Natasha Hooper Ash Ca$h, Miki Vale, hosted by yours truly Chauncey Maynor with music by Dj Red Light
Revolutionary Poets Brigade
Leap Year Reads & Open Mic
Monday, February 29, 7pm
3130 Moore St (Old Town)
Updates & Info
Admission: $5.00 or Generous Donation to Further Social Justice
An extra day this year for Revolution and Poetry!
The Revolutionary Poets Brigade – San Diego/Tijuana Chapter Reads starting at 7:30pm, Followed by an Open Mic – Poets, Musicians, Activists
The Revolutionary Poets Brigade are poet-activists organizing around the world to respond to the demands of the moment through poetry, music and art. There are 9 Chapters of The Revolutionary Poets Brigade extant in the world today: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Alburquerque, New York, Bari, Italy, Rome, Vermont, and San Diego/Tijuana.
Brigatistas and guests will read original poetry followed by an open mic for poets, musicians, and activists. All proceeds will go to “Homeless to Housed San Diego” and San Diego Alliance.
SuperTuesday Election Watch Party
Tuesday, March 1, 6-9pm
Park & Rec
4162 Park Blvd., University Heights
Updates & Info
Hosted by San Diego for Bernie Sanders Working Group
Join us as we watch the election results come in. Watch as states around the country feel the Bern. 9 months ago no one could have imagined such a grassroots campaign !
Roy Zimmerman’s ‘This Machine’
Wednesday, March 2, 6:30pm
3130 Moore St (Old Town)
Info & Updates
A very special Wednesday night concert at The GO with the indefatigable singer-satirist Roy Zimmerman, on the heels of “Super Tuesday” — 15 Primaries and Caucuses on March 1, 2016!
“This Machine” is ninety minutes of Roy Zimmerman’s hilarious, rhyme-intensive original songs. The title is a reference to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to be sure, but also an acknowledgement that songwriting does good work in the world.
“Sometimes I think satire is the most hopeful and heartfelt form of expression,” says Roy, “because in calling out the world’s absurdities and laughing in their face, I’m affirming the real possibility of change.”
Cracking the Codes on Race
Films & Conversations on RACE (#3)
Saturday, March 5, 9:30am-12:30pm
Peace Resource Center of San Diego
3850 Westgate Pl, San Diego
Info & Updates
RSVP appreciated. Refreshments provided. Donations appreciated!
This 3-hour program includes one film showing and group dialogue. Together, we will examine our embedded assumptions around race and systems of oppression, discover new questions, and explore avenues for change.
** Note: This is our 3rd session (different films). If you missed one or both before, it’s okay! Each time we’ve had large groups with varied experience and ended up with excellent conversations. We look forward to you joining! (And put Mar 26th on your calendar for a 4th session, details to be determined)
“Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity” asks America to talk about the causes and consequences of systemic inequity. Designed for dialogue, the film works to disentangle internal beliefs, attitudes and pre-judgments within, and it builds skills to address the structural drivers of social and economic inequities. The film features moving stories from 24 racial justice leaders including Amer Ahmed, Michael Benitez, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, Joy DeGruy, Harley Eagle, Ericka Huggins, Yuko Kodama, Peggy McIntosh, Rinku Sen, Tillman Smith and Tim Wise.
15th Annual San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame
Induction Ceremony and Reception
Sunday, March 6, 2:30-5:30pm
Joe and Vi Jacobs Center
404 Euclid Ave., San Diego
Info & Updates
Nominated by the community, five women will be recognized for their achievements and inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame next month.Guests will enjoy a light afternoon meal and touching performance by Los Angeles playwright and actress Amy Simon. Congresswoman Susan Davis and many other local and regional guests will be in attendance to applaud these local legends.
This year’s inductees are being recognized in five categories:
Activist: Evonne Seron Schulze
Bridge Builder: Sally Wong Avery, J.D.
Empowerer of Women: Elizabeth Lou
Historian: Maria Garcia
Trailblazer: Christine Kehoe
International Women’s Day March & Rally
Tuesday, March 8, 11:30am
Downtown San Diego
Meet at the corner of 7th St. & B St.
Info & Updates
Immigrant Women Rising! Join women across the world as we rise up against abuse and exploitation!
Poverty: A family with two parents working as janitors earns less than 67% of what it needs in order to cover basic living expenses.
Economic exploitation: Janitors are among the most likely to experience wage theft, facing low wages, and hazardous working conditions.
Immigrant women at risk: As documented in a PBS special investigation, “Rape on the Night Shift,” janitors are vulnerable to extreme abuses on the job, including widespread sexual harassment and assault of women.
Get your event listed: I try to list the next 10 days or so of mostly non-commercial events I think our readers might find of interest. I source my material from social media listings and press releases. In cases where there are competing but similar events or campaigns of the progressive persuasion, I do my best to list everything. (Hint, hint Hillary fans.) Unfortunately, my subscription to the psychic hotline has lapsed so if you don’t tell me or Facebook, etc., about your event it won’t get listed. See my email address below.
On This Day: 1885 – Congress OKs the Contract Labor Law, designed to clamp down on “business agents” who contracted abroad for immigrant labor. One of the reasons unions supported the measure: employers were using foreign workers to fight against the growing U.S. labor movement, primarily by deploying immigrant labor to break strikes 1919 – In Arizona, the Grand Canyon was established as a National Park with an act of the U.S. Congress. 2004 – A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ends.
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