Bill Clinton certainly could be shifty and FDR cheated at cards, but should Donald Trump be the next president, he would be the first with a proven record of being a scam artist who unlike Robin Hood, has long played against fabulistic form by stealing from the rich and the poor.
But Trump, who will not be the next president, makes Robin Hood look like a piker with a seamy past littered with financial chicanery, including his now infamous Trump University, as well as double dealing, union busting and endorsements for get-rich-quick schemes that have separated hardworking but vulnerable people from their money, kind of like those much written about "vulnerable" voters who flock to Trump like flies to . . . well, you know what because they know he's a grifter and they love it.
The most egregious of these schemes, detailed in a Salon.com article by Joe Miller and elsewhere, involves ACN, a North Carolina-based outfit that touts itself as a "multi-level marketing" company.
What ACN actually does is run a multi-level pyramid scheme, and it has thrived by using Trump as its front man.
"The Trump name and success have really become one and the same," Trump declares as he shakes his famous You're fired! finger in an ACN promotional video. "The two things I've mastered over the years is understanding the importance of timing in business and the ability to recognize great opportunities. So, I'm here to tell you about a company that provides these two essential components for success."
Trump made $1.35 million from speaking fees ($450,000 a shot for three speeches) for ACN, according to the financial statements he released over the summer in conjunction with his campaign. But when the Wall Street Journal inquired about the $1.35 million and other millions he previously made on the backs of ACN victims, he had all traces of himself removed from the ACN website.
"I know nothing about the company," Trump told the Journal, conveniently forgetting that he was the featured speaker at ACN's annual convention in 2015. "I'm not familiar with what they do or how they go about doing it, and I make that clear in my speeches."
That gibberish is further betrayed by the fact that Trump first became involved with ACN in 2006, while in 2009 and 2011, company executives appeared on the gadzillionaire's NBC reality show, "Celebrity Apprentice." During one episode, a video phone being sold by ACN was a featured product.
But video phones and other merchandise is not what ACN is about. It is about using existing sales agents to recruit new ones, thereby creating a lucrative and self-regenerating revenue stream since sales agents, who pay $499 to join the company, are required to sign long-term contracts and charged annual fees and training expenses.
"The essence of the whole thing is kind of a card trick," says Robert FitzPatrick, who operates the website Pyramid Scheme Alert. He estimates that only about one percent of all ACN agents ever make any money.
"With a name like Trump behind it people would think this can’t be a scam," FitzPatrick says.
Meanwhile, ACN and Xoom Energy, an ACN subsidiary, are the subjects of a class-action lawsuit filed in North Carolina alleging that the companies worked together to perpetrate an elaborate bait-and-switch scheme in which ACN marketers would convince customers to switch energy service to Xoom by promising lower energy costs. Customers instead found their energy costs rise dramatically and had difficulty canceling their contracts.
FitzPatrick calls ACN "one of the more predatory and aggressive of the many multi-level marketing companies that exist," while I call Donald Trump unadulterated, bottom-feeding slime for preying on people who are struggling to get ahead. Which further reveals that the presidential campaign of a man who has made millions from a scam is one big scam itself.
The prissily conservative National Review recently went out on a limb and ventured that Trump's involvement with ACN "is another terrible example of his poor judgment," but my blogging friend Will Bunch nailed it when he said America is slowly waking up to the fact that Trump is "the national equivalent of a Nigerian email scammer."
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
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