Donald Trump has long been famous, but he’s never been vetted for public office. Had his run been taken more seriously, the digging into his life would have begun when he announced in June. Now that Trump is the GOP frontrunner, the fact-finding is kicking into gear — and accusations about his Trump University are first on the list.
From 2005 through 2011, Trump University ran seminars across the country. It promised that instructors “handpicked” by Donald Trump would teach the developer’s real-estate secrets. But the man who actually ran the enterprise says Trump never handpicked a single instructor, and Trump, under oath, couldn’t identify instructors from a list of names.
A $40 million fraud lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in 2013, and two other class action suits, charge that it was a fake university that ripped off thousands of people with high-pressure sales of packages costing as much as $35,000. They say it never delivered on promises of support, mentors or instruction. Participants say instructors at a free introduction focused on selling a three-day $1,495 seminar. Those seminars then focused on selling the hyperexpensive Trump Elite mentorship programs, even persuading attendees to call credit card companies to get limit increases for further packages.
Trump denies wrongdoing. At debates, he claims 98 percent of participants were satisfied and the program has an A grade from the Better Business Bureau. But Trump University’s last BBB rating was a D-, and the positive report cards Trump talks about were filled out at mid-course by students hoping for help from teachers.
For now, it’s hard not to conclude that Trump University was in many ways a scam. What’s less clear is whether many of the presidential candidate’s supporters care. — The editorial board