How stiffing small businesses, giving counterfeit cufflinks define Donald Trump

When you ponder the candidacy and purported authenticity of Donald Trump, give a thought to what he did to a Pennsylvania cabinetmaker.

Back in 1984, Edward Friel Jr.’s cabinet making operation was over 40 years old. His father founded the company and his son worked in it, too.

It must have been exciting when Friel got a big contract for a Trump casino in Atlantic City. Unfortunately for this business owner, Trump never paid his final bill of $83,600, undermining its cash flow. As John Friel, Edward’s son, told a reporter, “That began the demise” of this family business.

Donald Trump didn’t just cheat this cabinetmaker. As revealed in an extensive report by USA Today, Trump stiffed many small businesses, generating hundreds of liens against him. As that report noted, “The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years.”

Not paying his bills while profiting has characterized Trump’s business model and career.

Take Trump’s casinos, a type of business that rarely loses money because owners literally set the odds so most customers lose. Trump drove his own casinos out of business while pocketing millions. According to an analysis by The New York Times, Trump “shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments.”

Meanwhile, others lost out big. Investors lost a whopping $1.5 billion. Small businesses were forced to settle for small payouts, threatening or ending their existence. One was a company called Triad Building Specialties.

“Trump crawled his way to the top on the back of little guys, one of them being my father,” Beth Rosser, who runs her father’s business, Triad, today, 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.”

Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, in March. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, in March. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Trump’s campaign comments and operations have shown the same lack of concern for others as long as he personally profits.

After the United Kingdom passed a referendum on leaving the European Union and futures predicted rapid declines in the nation’s currency, Trump arrived in Scotland to inspect and tout Turnberry, his new luxury resort and golf course. In response to a reporter about the impact of Brexit, Trump said, “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

Similarly, through the end of May, Trump had spent more than $6 million in campaign funds on various Trump businesses, according to Fortune, including nearly $425,000 at the Florida resort where he makes his winter home. By arranging accommodation for the traveling press at Trump properties, the presumptive Republican nominee brought in more funding for himself.

In addition to Trump’s cheating in business and in bogus ventures like Trump University and Cambridge Who’s Who, which ripped off middle class and low income Americans, Trump has a history of personal fakery.

Trump stiffed veterans’ groups $1 million in donations he said he gave until the press reported on this.

Then, there are the tales of the counterfeit cufflinks, which might seem funny if they were not so revealing of the character of the man who is the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

Years ago Trump gave lawyer Roy Cohn what were purportedly “diamond-encrusted cuff links,” but when they were appraised after his death, they turned out to be fake. Something similar happened to actor Charlie Sheen. He was at a dinner party where Trump pulled off his cufflinks and gave them to Sheen, telling him they were made of platinum and diamond. Later, a jewelry appraiser told Sheen they were knockoffs. “They’re stamped Trump,” Sheen said, according to The Weekly Standard.

All of this cheating should be remembered when evaluating Trump and his opponent, Hillary Clinton. While noting Clinton has sometimes showed poor judgment, investigative reporter Jill Abramson concluded, “Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy. . . There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.” And while Politifact determined that 61 percent of Trump’s statements were “false” or so off they ranked “pants on fire,” 12 percent of Clinton’s were in that category.

Add to that Trump switching positions more than typical candidates, and the Republican candidate — who is visiting Bangor this week — appears to be authentically something. But it’s not authentically honest.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.