People in the United States have long become accustomed to negative exchanges among political candidates during election years. Few candidates today who run for the nation’s highest office emerge unscathed.
Just within the past year, for instance, allegations dogged Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that her husband received exorbitantly high speaking fees on behalf of the Clinton Foundation when he addressed private groups overseas during the period that she served as Secretary of State. New Jersey Governor Christie, a recent Republican candidate for President, had to contend with allegations his closest aides retaliated against his political critics. And a few weeks ago, Donald Trump claimed Republican Senator Ted Cruz did not meet Constitutional requirements to run for the nation’s highest elective office.
Last week, Mr. Trump found himself on the receiving end of unflattering campaign allegations. His frequently aggressive attacks on opponents resulted in some payback from Senator Marco Rubio. This year, Republicans appear to have discarded President Reagan’s famous “Eleventh Commandment” that no GOP presidential candidate should speak ill of another during the Presidential Primary season. As pressure mounts to garner the greatest number of delegates to the Republican convention, the campaigns of some Republic candidates have begun squabbling with a gusto worthy of Democrats during former eras.
Trump University, LLC: Not Ivy League
During a heated Republican debate, Senator Rubio raised the subject of a lawsuit involving “Trump University” a few years ago. The litigation did not place Mr. Trump in a very flattering light.
The billionaire real estate tycoon from New York had lent his good name and invested $6 million in a real estate wealth building program marketed as Trump University, LLC. Many consumers paid money to study real estate investment strategies and tactics under instructors working for the program. Participants paid $1495 to participate in a “fulfillment seminar” over the course of a year. Instructors offered personal guidance to them about steps they could take to amass wealth.
Donald Trump, who also appeared on a reality television show in which he selected apprentices as a business associates from amongst groups of contestants, The Apprentice, served as the chief role model for Trump University’s marketing campaign. The program used some written materials carrying his name, including one book entitled Trump 101: The Way to Success.
A second “elite” advanced mentoring package offered by the same organization promoted a $35,000 coaching package. This program inspired Senator Rubio’s caustic remark that “people who borrowed $36,000” to attend Trump U could “take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump”.
Not everyone who signed up for the program got rich. Some participants regretted their decision to seek wealth mentoring. In 2010, a California participant reportedly filed a class action lawsuit claiming consumer protection violations.
Donald Trump responded with litigation against the plaintiff for defamation after negative comments about Trump University, LLC appeared in a non-protected forum. He won in the lower court, but the plaintiff avoided a defamation judgement during an appeal and remand.
In June, 2010 the New York Education Department ordered Trump University LLC to cease doing business and send refunds to “current students”. Several state attorney generals investigated the program. A second plaintiff filed yet another class actions in 2013, alleging damaged under the RICO statute. That suit remains in litigation. Meanwhile, the New York AG’s office sued Trump University LLC in 2013 alleging a “scam”.
The fallout from the program has created campaign fodder for politicians interested in criticizing Donald Trump during 2016. It may become a popular media topic this summer.