“I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money,” former Trump University sales manager Ronald Schnackenberg stated in a particularly damning deposition unsealed yesterday as part of a legal case against Donald Trump and his real estate seminars.
Schnackenberg describes Trump University as “only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they possible could.” Far from providing its customers with an actual education, “most of the instructors, mentors and coaches had very little or no experience in the real estate techniques they were teaching.”
Free seminars were designed for the sole purpose of generating sign-ups for $1,500 classes; the $1,500 classes were solely designed to sign people up for $35,000 “elite seminars”; and the elite seminars simply foisted more products on “students.”
Salesmen for Trump University were forced to put students in financial peril to make sales — or face consequences. According to Schnackenberg, he was “reprimanded” for not selling a couple a $35,000 seminar because they would have had to use “disability income” and “tak[e] out a loan based on the equity in his apartment.” Another sales person closed the deal.
Furthermore, according to Schnackenberg, “speakers told students to raise their credit card limits so that they could be ready to purchase real estate.” They even encouraged students to pay for the classes with credit cards.
Hawking financially risky fraudulent products
, designed to take advantage of elderly and vulnerable populations , would seem like a disqualifier for a presidential candidate, except it puts Trump squarely in line with the profit model of much of he conservative movement.
As Alex Seitz-Wald reported for Salon in 2013:
Last week, preeminent conservative blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson was busted hawking a pricey but dubiously valuable financial advice newsletter to his readers in an ad that turned out to be lifted from a previous ad for the same newsletter sent in the name of Ann Coulter a few years earlier. “I’m happy to support a good friend. Didn’t earn a penny,” he tweeted. Whether you believe that or not may depend on whether you know that his publisher once offered to sell his endorsement, or if you believe, as Alex Pareene has often written, that the conservative movement is, among other things, an elaborate moneymaking venture by which the wealth of the rabid and gullible conservative rank and file is redistributed to already rich celebrities.
The truth is, peddling shady products to your most loyal listeners and readers is the rule, not the exception, and Erickson was just unfortunate enough to have someone notice him, and not the dozen other talkers or news outlets it could have easily been. From miracle health cures, to get-rich-quick schemes, to overpriced precious metals and seed banks, talk radio hosts and conservative news outlets are making a killing by trading their platform and credibility for the hard-earned cash of their unsuspecting listeners.
Across the conservative media, scams targeting vulnerable populations are commonplace. RedState.com once told its email list that in 1985 Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with three forms of cancer and was cured not by “chemo” or “radiation,” but a “secret” and “CENSORED” treatment that they would reveal. WND, Dick Morris, Newsmax and Glenn Beck have sent similar emails.
Newt Gingrich, Fox Business, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Alex Jones, WND and The Washington Times all promoted Stansberry & Associates, an investment firm that targeted conservative customers and was “fined $1.5 million for engaging in ‘deliberate fraud’ and profiting from ‘false statements.’ ”
Potential Trump vice presidential pick Newt Gingrich has claimed in emails that "cancer was cured back in 1925," "the annual flu shot is nothing more than a BALD-FACED SCAM,” "Illuminati was behind every consequential wealth event of ," and an “insider near Washington D.C. has just blown the lid off the 7 Deadly Drugs the U.S. Government can't wait for you to swallow."
On his email list, Mike Huckabee has marketed
, “a medical quack claiming Alzheimer's disease cures; a for-sale stock pundit that was fired from Fox; a financial firm that was fined by the government for engaging in ‘deliberate fraud’; and a survival food company that profits off of readers' fears of being ‘herded into FEMA camps.’”
Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate tapped by Trump to lead his vice presidential search, “shilled for a quack-cures company that used misleading advertisements to promote its products to people with cancer, HIV, ALS and autism” and paid $7 million as part of a false marketing settlement.
With the Right’s track record, the presumptive GOP nominee should be touting the fraudulent activity of Trump University as another example of his conservative credentials.