Drive for Show, Putt for Dough, Cheat for Tax Deductions

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I swear every time I think I’ve met the limit of repulsion for Trump, I meet a new threshold.

You’re doubtless aware of the New York Attorney General’s Motion to Compel against The Trump Organization, Inc.; Seven Springs LLC; Allen Weisselberg; Eric Trump; Charles Martabano; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (MLB); Sheri Dillon; Donald J. Trump; Ivanka Trump; and Donald Trump, Jr. in relation to investigation of “fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”

Martabano is a real estate attorney; MLB is a tax attorneys practice which sought to cut ties with Trump; Sheri Dillon has been a partner at MLB working on the Trump account. The rest of the named you are likely familiar with from previous news and posts.

This motion is only in relation to a civil action by NYAG Letitia James; the District Attorney of the County of New York (DANY) Alvin Bragg is conducting a parallel criminal investigation.

I’ve written before about Trump National Golf Club Westchester and the generally scammy and scummy way Trump and Trump org treated the community of Briarcliff where the course is located.

NYAG’s motion opened up a new can of angry bees from a location I haven’t looked at previously because it wasn’t a Trump golf course resort.

Seven Springs is an example of a golf course which didn’t happen, and what Trump did to try and keep the property while paying out as little as possible to do so.

This sounds relatively harmless; who doesn’t try to keep their expenses down?

Except Seven Springs is yet another example of Trump’s lousy judgment and his externalizing his failures onto others.

~ ~ ~

This is Seven Springs as it was back when it was owned by Eugene and Agnes Meyer (also known as the parents of Washington Post’s former publisher Katharine Graham née Meyer). It was built for the Meyers in 1915 for what then was an unfathomable amount of money – $2 million for a little over 28,000 square feet. (Note the rows of young trees planted at the top of the photo as well as the trees to the right side which follow the embankment to the Byram Lake Reservoir.)

(source: Histree.com)

Agnes Meyer died in 1970; under the successor Meyer Foundation, Seven Springs was then used as a conference center by Yale University. In 1984 the foundation cut its ties with Yale and gifted the property to Rockefeller University.

In 1995 – three years after his divorce from his first wife Ivana and a year before he bought the former Briar Hall Golf and Country Club in Westchester – Trump bought Seven Springs from Rockefeller University

Trump originally planned to develop the property into a golf course. A number of architectural design firms worked competitively on plans over a handful of years.

But nothing came of the effort for a number of reasons, the biggest barrier being the approval of the local community and his neighbors.

This is Seven Springs as it appears on Google Maps in satellite view. It is located almost half way between two golf courses – the Mt. Kisco Country Club (opened in 1928) and the Summit at Armonk (opened in 1961).

Mt. Kisco Country Club at upper left; the Summit at Armonk at lower right; Seven Springs in center to left of Byram Lake Reservoir. (source: Google Maps)

The addition of a Trump course at Seven Springs would mean three golf courses inside less than a 10-mile radius. Seven Springs is located on undulating terrain with granite underneath and wetlands on the property, making development extremely complicated and pricey.

Surface water from Seven Springs acreage drains into the Byram Lake Reservoir which provides drinking water for the Mt. Kisco community; a new golf course with all its lawn chemicals and additional automobile traffic dropping gasoline, oil, and more would increase pollutants in the reservoir. One can understand the community’s reluctance to approve a Trump course when there has already been one nearby for decades; the community knows just how much a golf course can affect the reservoir.

The property also abuts the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Nature Preserve immediately to the south which is owned by The Nature Conservancy. It is undeveloped woodlands overlooked by the 28,000 square foot house at Seven Springs.

~ ~ ~

This is what pissed me off.

Trump had to have known when he bought Seven Springs that the nature preserve which had once been part of the Meyers’ 1000-acre holding was next door to the immediate south of the estate. One of the tentative plans for a golf course snugged up to the north boundary of the preserve.

Once Trump finally gave up on this course after stringing along star-struck course developers for years, he decided he would pursue real estate development, tentatively subdividing Seven Springs to build up to 14 McMansion-sized homes.

But he apparently wanted or needed a through way across the 213 acres for both the purposes of development and for the future home owners.

He sued The Nature Conservancy and the community for an easement to build a road — extending Oregon Road which leads to Seven Springs along the drive on the property and then through the nature preserve over an unpaved path to where Oregon Road begins again south of the preserve.

Again, Trump had to have known when he bought the 213-acre parcel that it did not include an easement into/through the nature preserve. An unpaved path from Seven Springs into the preserve once existed, but a gate had been installed in 1990 between Seven Springs and the preserve. Rockefeller University had known about a previous easement but allowed it to expire during its ownership of Seven Springs.

The easement was extinct, demised, non-extant, and even more dead because Trump had allowed more than 10 years to pass between purchasing Seven Springs and suing for an easement.

And yet in August 2006 Trump went to court to get his way, costing The Nature Conservancy and the community time and money to fight off his demand for an easement and road through pristine woodlands because he didn’t have the goddamned foresight to see the Seven Springs property was problematic as golf course and residential development when he bought it in 1995.

Never mind the fact the course would be in competition with two well-established courses.

~ ~ ~

Now it gets messy.

Because he can’t develop the property at all without some accommodation for a road and the neighbors and community aren’t happy but he wants to hang onto the property for his family’s use, Trump pursued tax deductions.

It’s not clear from the NYAG’s motion when Trump began pursuit of a tax deduction for a 150-acre conservation easement on Seven Springs property. In exchange for promising not to develop property, Trump’s organization obtained a $5 million tax credit from 2014 to 2018 for Seven Springs and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles combined.

He also pursued a very similar conservation easement tax deduction at Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles worth multiple millions in tax credits. The land set aside from development was used as a driving range – no buildings constructed, no fairways or greens, just a patch of mowed lawn for practice shots but still part of the golf course business, and surely not open to the public for free. This tax deduction, too, is being examined by NYAG.

Which part of the 213-acre Seven Springs property did he set aside to conserve?

The part which had been cleared of trees planted by the Meyers?

The part which has been cleared of trees and brushed out down the slope to the Byram Lake Reservoir, which realistically can’t be developed anyhow because of that slope?

The part which couldn’t be developed because of the lack of local approvals and the road he couldn’t add?

MOUNT KISCO, NY – SEPTEMBER 30 2020: President Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Mount Kisco, New York, seen here Sept. 30, 2020.
(Johnny Milano for The Washington Post)

Which is the question at the heart of NYAG’s investigation into Seven Springs: how can Trump place a value on the 150-acre conservation easement for a tax deduction based on high-end residential development, when it couldn’t be developed?

How can a permanent swath of lawn punctuated with trees be the same value as new McMansion construction?

It’s not worth roughly $2-3 million a year in tax deductions on the face of it.

~ ~ ~

Another really irritating part of this beyond the pudgy orange weasel himself is the absence of the Internal Revenue Service and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. How did this scofflaw get away with millions of dollars in sketchy tax deductions all this time?

This situation should never have gotten this far out of hand; the first time a taxpayer, human or corporate, takes multi-million tax deductions on conservation easements, that’s the time an agent from either the IRS or the state tax authority physically inspects the property and investigates its backstory to ensure it’s a legitimate conservation easement.

But like everything else Trump has gotten away with so far, the right authorities to deal with him at the time he violated a law or regulation failed to do their duty and the public has no idea why.

If I took a multi-million tax deduction on a conservation easement this year, you can bet I’d be sucked into an audit as fast as you can blink.

Once NYAG and DANY are done with their investigations, local, state, and federal governments need to look at what triggers should set off audits and investigations because whatever they’re currently relying on isn’t working.

$2-3 million is one hell of a lot of tax revenue which could have paid for many public services in New York State and beyond.

And I haven’t even mentioned the other Trump properties in New York though I’ve written about them before.

Nor have I mentioned the easement lawsuit and the creation of conservation easements for tax purposes occurred while Trump was appearing in The Apprentice, kitted out and scripted to look as if he was a successful, honest businessman and real estate developer season after season.

~ ~ ~

Eric Trump, he of 500-plus invocations of the Fifth Amendment under questioning by NYAG, said of Seven Springs, “It was home base for us for a long, long time…

Yeah? Well, all your base are belong to us if Seven Springs ends up seized for taxes.

Seriously, fuck this base.

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136 replies
  1. madwand says:

    “But like everything else Trump has gotten away with so far, the right authorities to deal with him at the time he violated a law or regulation failed to do their duty and the public has no idea why.”

    Perhaps donations to “Greasy Di Palmi” would explain this, hope they are working on it, but most likely unless there is a paper trail any investigation will be moot.

    • Rayne says:

      unless there is a paper trail any investigation will be moot.

      There’s a trail. Read the motion; much of the paper trail is alluded to in the motion. There’s a lot of paper trail which is public, like the documentation at Briarcliff regarding the Westchester course and the easement lawsuit against the conservancy and Mt. Kisco.

      Thank the gods Cy Vance is gone.

      • xy xy says:

        “There’s a trail….There’s a lot of paper trail which is public, like the documentation…”
        How is it that NJGaming Commissioners who let his father and him get away with “murder” were never investigated/prosecuted/whatever?
        Or were they and I missed it.
        There has to be documentation on those proceedings.

        • Rayne says:

          Out of the scope of what I’m doing. Sure hope it’s revealed along the way as investigators sort through the mounds of evidence accruing.

          • posaune says:

            I’m wondering about the local planning agency’s role here. Typically, the local planning agency (i.e., county), reviews easement application: survey (with licensed engineer’s stamp) including watershed, steep slopes, forest stand delineation, species id, tree inventory, surface conditions, pervious area, vehicular access –all authenticated. Planning entity approves easement and its designation (along areas dedicated to protective or public use). Plat issued showing boundaries and other conditions of easement, with reference to expired easements.

            So, it would seem that the local agency, upon survey, would have documented in the technical review that there were no trees, the steep slopes, pervious-impervious areas, and made a recommendation to its planning board (or entity acting as a planning board) for approval/disapproval of the subject area.
            Where is documentation of that regulatory step, the public hearing and decision? If the IRS had such a planning document and/or planning board resolution, it would have been simple to reject the tax write-off.

            If the community was so opposed to Trump’s development plan, they should have had input to the designation of the area as a FCP. Where is the evidence of that? Unless the planning agency performed its review “administratively, ” with no hearing. I’ll bet they are a bunch of wimps, too.

            • Rayne says:

              May not be a case of “wimps” but people who understand how Trump works and didn’t want to bankrupt themselves with his SLAPP-ish suits.

              That’s what pissed me off about his suit against The Nature Conservancy — he’s forced a non-profit to use either their precious donation revenues or rely on pro bono legal assistance to defend against his encroachment.

              I don’t know that any local entity approves a conservation easement for tax deduction; Trump org/Seven Springs LLC may have approached an existing land trust and asked to join it. I haven’t run into that yet.

              • posaune says:

                Rayne, it’s not that the planning agency approves a tax deduction per se;
                it’s that the planning agency approves and authenticates the property’s “use” as appropriate for a conservation easement and further approves the disposition of the property as either a “dedication to public use” or as a privately held parcel that may, in the future, be the basis of a donation.

                • Rayne says:

                  I’m simply not seeing where a state or local government agency necessarily involved in establishment of conservation easements in New York State.

                  …This agreement is held between a landowner and a government agency or land trust, with the landowner maintaining ownership. ..

                  See https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/41156.html

      • Peterr says:

        There’s also a Trail Guide by the name of Michael Cohen, who brought the maps of the trail with him to talk to Tish James and the NYC DA

      • Theodora30 says:

        Why did you think it’s good that Cy Vance is gone? I don’t disagree but is your objection about more than his letting Ivanka and Don Jr. off the hook when he had solid evidence that they were committed real estate fraud by inflating both the price and number of units they had sold at Trump Soho. Vance had copies of their emails
        The evidence included e-mails from the Trump kiddies showing clearly that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

        “In one e-mail, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coördinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the e-mails, they worried that a reporter might be on to them. In yet another, Donald, Jr., spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the e-mail chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the e-mail. “
        https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-ivanka-trump-and-donald-trump-jr-avoided-a-criminal-indictment
        (Vance also let Harvey Weinstein off the hook even though he had solid proof Weinstein had raped a woman.)

        I want to know why the media didn’t make a bigger deal of this story when it broke. It is solid proof that both are crooks, just like Daddy.

        • ernesto1581 says:

          not quite the end of Vance/Ivanka/Don jr/Kasowitz story.

          précis from NY Daily News, Oct 04, 2017, via reddit (full citation below):

          “A campaign spokesman for Manhattan prosecutor Cy Vance Jr. denied any wrongdoing Wednesday as the lawman returned a $31,000 contribution from President Trump’s attorney.

          The 2013 donation from Trump’s longtime personal lawyer was sent back amid new revelations about Vance’s decision to pass on prosecuting Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. The First Family siblings came into the district attorney’s crosshairs during Vance’s first term in office for allegedly duping prospective buyers in a failed Manhattan project dubbed Trump Soho.

          Kasowitz made a subsequent $31,993 donation to Vance in January 2013.”

          https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/manhattan-da-vance-back-31g-donation-trump-lawyer-article-1.3540956

  2. Rayne says:

    There’s so much more I didn’t tackle in this piece. Media has enabled this pudgy orange weasel by failing to question what they were told so many times — like one article in which the square footage of Seven Springs’ estate was cited as 50,000 square feet though the footprint of the building doesn’t appear to have changed since it was first built. Same article says Seven Springs sits on 230 acres though earlier reports say 213. Also says Trump got approval to develop the property in 2013 and the site certainly doesn’t look like it, and the conservation easement tax deduction says otherwise. It feels more like this piece was used as propaganda to bolster the case for taking the deduction — “Look, we could have developed here but we didn’t, even this credulous magazine said so.”

    Just so revolting how a Potemkin shell of a human has been treated like a real boy, a privileged cis-het white one.

    ADDER: I just realized I should have mentioned the Whippoorwill Club, a private golf course located southwest of Seven Springs but still inside the 10-mile radius. That would have been FOUR golf courses in a very tight area, competing for the same market. So, so stupid and hubristic.

    • xy xy says:

      “That would have been FOUR golf courses in a very tight area, competing for the same market. So, so stupid and hubristic.”
      But there are many corners that have 4 gas stations facing each other, sometimes with different pricing, and some people still go to the most expensive one.
      And as far as “Again, Trump had to have known when he bought…”, I wouldn’t be so sure.
      There’s a freestanding supermarket property which was abandoned by a well-known chain near where I live. A new tenant moved in and really upgraded the property. Only problem, the new independent owner, admitted in media, did not know that there was either Aldi/Lidel within a mile, there was a sugar tax that supposedly was driving business away and that’s why the previous owner decided to call it quits there, that it would be the only independent store of that chain within 100 miles so bringing in merchandise would be costly, and it’s prices are higher than any other store in the area. It came in just as covid arrived so they were the only ones with well-stocked shelves so price did not matter and they may have gotten government relief….
      That supermarket is closed for renovations, but considering above, I believe, permanently.

    • dadidoc1 says:

      This is probably off topic, but is it possible that the Russian threat to Ukraine is more about the possibility that Trump Org might default on Deutche Bank loans, directly impacting Putin, than on Ukraine itself? Putin and his buddies have lots of exposure and not much recourse.

  3. OldTulsaDude says:

    Why hasn’t Trump been held accountable,
    let me count the ways
    he’s not black,
    is there anything more to say?

      • Peterr says:

        Saying race did not matter is not exactly helpful either.

        Trump had to get insurance on all of this, and likely financing of some kind, and both industries have a long and continuing history of demanding far more from non-white customers than white customers when it comes to documentation and such.

        Which makes me curious . . . For all the talk of James and a civil suit and NYC DA and possible criminal action, I wonder if any of the banks and insurance companies will go after Trump for defrauding them and lying to them on financial disclosures? (Or would that be somehow subsumed into whatever James is doing?)

        • bmaz says:

          James, to the extent she is really doing anything but her usual showboating, is irrelevant to putative private plaintiffs.

        • bie phiephus says:

          The banks won’t go after Trump. Just as Trump should have known about the nature preserve and lack of easement, the banks should have known Trump was dirty and incompetent. I’m sure they’d much rather sweep the whole thing under the rug.

          • Rayne says:

            You’re assuming good faith and loss mitigation on the part of banks. What if they’re partners in crime? Of course they’re going to cover their asses by trying to make this go away.

            • bie phiephus says:

              True, I was giving them the benefit of incompetence over corruption. For many it’s likely both, especially Deutsche Bank. But however you slice it, the banks would rather keep their dirty laundry hidden than come after Trump.

              • Rayne says:

                You’re still assuming they’re aren’t witting equals in their illicit activities. I still suspect some bonds written for Trump real estate developments by Bear Stearns were among the very first pieces to set off the 2008 crash. If Bear Stearns wanted to pad out a couple particular hedge funds and Trump was willing to play along with his debt bundled into them, both Bear Stearns and Trump got what they wanted. But the loss ratio exploded setting off the ensuing cascade — and we all know what happened to the Bear. And years later, Trump still remembered.

                • xy xy says:

                  So seems like you’re saying that in The Big Short everybody that was shorting the market saw the same thing; Trump garbage bonds.
                  Also, Chase and probably other banks were co-… with Madoff but got barely slapped on their knuckles.

                  • Rayne says:

                    No. Not what I’m saying at all. The entire market was full of bad loans thanks to subprime mortgages, but bankers kept stuffing funds with a range of debt objects and then selling off parts of the poorly-collateralized sausage they made. One of the two first sausages to go bad had bonds written on Trump real estate; they weren’t the only bad stuff in the sausage, though. The sausage maker, Bear Stearns, was as bad as the people relying on the debt they contributed to the sausage.

  4. John Paul Jones says:

    Lower left corner of the map: the Whippoorwill Club, which has a golf symbol but which, on a quick perusal, looks too small to be an actual course. So three already existing facilities in the neighbourhood.

    • Rayne says:

      Mentioned in an Adder to my first comment this thread.

      Let’s say Trump wasn’t so obviously stupid about marketing, recognizing he would be hypersaturating the local golf market with a pricey product. Was he really intending to build a money laundering/profiteering opportunity instead and ended up using Westchester for that because he couldn’t get approval from Mt. Kisco? What I would give to look at the books of the Westchester course.

        • Rayne says:

          Seven Springs would have been his first golf course. He’s personally golf obsessed. His own self-developed golf course may have been an ego trip and not a money laundering project initially, given his narcissism.

          • Leoghann says:

            It also afforded him an early opportunity to play golf without the constant talk about his being a duffer and chronic cheater.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        As to laundry-like properties, a lot of reporting and commentary over the years, but so far no solid evidence of laundering money for the Russians. With this much smoke, there must be a fire – somewhere, smouldering, awaiting only a breath to bring it up sharp and bright – but so far as we know, still no investigation into it. I recall reading somewhere too, that after 2008, the Trump Org began paying for things largely in cash, which would certainly seem to point in the direction of illegal money flows, but again, some scattered reporting, but nothing in detail. ProPublica did a long piece on the Panama Trump Tower implicating Russian assistance, but that’s all I’ve heard of in terms of detailed investigation. I think the fact that it’s a private company seriously hampers both reporters and government in getting to the (hypothetical) bottom of Trump’s affairs; and not helped, of course, by the fact that stupid is bottomless.

    • Rayne says:

      It’s an actual course, highly rated. The property configuration isn’t as compact as the other two nearby existing courses and the maturity of the course means trees at/near lifespan which obscure some features.

      • P J Evans says:

        i suspect it’s also not designed for PGA championships, with those long. long holes that they favor.

      • Leoghann says:

        I checked with a New York friend whose brother-in-law is an excellent golfer. He said Whippoorwill takes a good bit of skill, but is beautiful. He compared it to a nature preserve.

        • Rayne says:

          The satellite image shows a heavily-wooded course with a mature tree canopy. I think that’s a par 5 along the west side of the course which must be a total bitch for anyone who has the slightest bit of a hook or a slice because the trees along the fairway on both sides make the clear space very narrow. Must be something to see when the colors change.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          I’ve heard it’s like the Yale course in that respect. Yale’s in June is like an enchanted vale, very difficult but so gorgeous.

          Not for nothing, but Trump’s non-course would not have been far away from Winged Foot to the south, among the most renowned golf-insider courses in the country. I doubt DJT would have dared show his short game in Claude Harmon’s house.

          Rayne, thanks for staying on this beat. Your research is as fine as your writing; I believe in deep work like this, and you’ve showed why.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump embodies the adage, “Ignorance is curable, stupidity is terminal.” He would hold onto a property until doomsday, if it meant he could avoid looking weak, stupid, and a failure, which might explain why he has so many.

    He must have really wanted to get back at the locals for refusing him anything, let alone the ability to commercialize a pristine setting – when that inability was owing to his own stupidity and refusal to do his homework. Avoiding serious amounts of tax and spoiling the local environment would have been part of that, as well as being his standard operating procedure. You’ve also identified a general and longstanding problem: the ease with which the litigious wealthy avoid the kind of audits that plague poor people all the time.

    • xy xy says:

      It’s not only “the ease with which the litigious wealthy avoid the kind of audits that plague poor people all the time.”
      The whole tax system is rigged toward the wealthy.
      Lawmakers have :
      *dropped the highest marginal rate from 91% to under 40% in the last 40 years.
      *dropped funding for adding personnel (seasoned/skilled personnel have retired and not been replaced and/or replaced with personnel who have not been given those skills), auditing, investigating,… the wealthy.
      *created all kinds of pass-throughs so no one knows who the owners are, etc.
      *created nightmarish laws/amendments that overwhelm taxing authorities that are a boon for the wealthy.
      *etc.
      Like “big banks are too big to fail”, the wealthy “are too big to…”.

      • Reggie M. says:

        But, the people that get audited are people of color, who have itemize their deductions, people located in like some bayou in LA, cuz they are easy targets, the paper work is easy to go through and they can’t afford pricey lawyers. IRS looks good, their investigation #’s look passable, and no one gets fired. A win/win!

        • Rayne says:

          That’s definitely a problem when the bulk of tax fraud $$ is like this Trump has committed with asset inflation. One deduction alone costing the public +$2 million/year versus all the IRS personnel needed to shake down average Americans who make less than $50K/year suggests the cost/benefit analysis is pointedly skewed.

    • Rayne says:

      Not really OT because it’s a pattern — he overstates attributes of properties he owns, inflating asset valuation depending on the entity and angle appropriate to his needs. You know he’d argue the opposite in front of a tax authority for the purposes of reducing his liability.

      • earthworm says:

        “…he overstates attributes of properties he owns,…”
        heh — including shall we say, personal attributes he owns?

      • Kenster42 says:

        And this is the thing about Trump that for anyone that understands business or real estate development is just infuriating. People bend the rules in business and REALLY bend the rules in real estate development. But Trump can never just do the norm. He always has to turn it up to 11. Ridiculous deltas between asset valuation for bank loans and tax assessments. Using a phalanx of attorneys to fight stuff even though he knows damn well he’s eventually gonna lose, but might as well make his adversaries spend a ton of money on legal fees in the process, right? And if it all goes to hell, bankrupt that sucker!

        Every time I try to just let it go stuff like this comes out and gets my rage meter going again. Because, love him or hate him, Trump is probably the best we’re ever gonna see who manages to break so many laws and do so many terrible things with his businesses and finances and he never truly gets in trouble personally. It’s infuriating how good he is at it considering how bad he is at so many other things. Gah.

  6. Spencer Dawkins says:

    Rayne: “I swear every time I think I’ve met the limit of repulsion for Trump, I meet a new threshold.”

    Me: “same”.

    This guy (and his oh, so many grifts) is like peeling an infinite onion crossed with cow dung. You peel off the outer layer, there’s poop under it, so you peel that layer off, and … sheesh.

  7. P J Evans says:

    The former guy got used to getting whatever he wanted by buying or bullying everyone who was in the way. Endless lawsuits were his MO as an adult, because screaming tantrums weren’t working any more.

    Also, I doubt that that estate was “home base” for anyone in that family until now. Their base seems to be much more urban.

      • MB says:

        And you know you’re nearing the vicinity of the Defeated Former President’s golf course because the oversize flag on the unpermitted 70-foot flagpole is visible from far away. He did have to agree to maintain a public-access dirt trail from the golf course parking lot down to the rocky beach at the base of the cliffs there in the original purchase agreement. Thank god geological realities prevented him from building the gated community of mini-mansions that was originally envisioned…

        • Rayne says:

          That’s the kind of detail which makes my point: this public-access trail would have appeared in the deed or local codes, covenants, and restrictions, just as the relationship of the neighboring nature preserve to the estate must have been disclosed.

  8. Scott Johnson says:

    I would say that the general corruption involved here is a bigger story than any specific tax/accounting shenanigans, even if the current legal process focuses on the latter.

    But Trump, I suspect, has long been the sort of guy who will a) bribe a politician or official, then b) extort said official with evidence of the bribe. Like a single woman who blackmails her former lover by threatening to tell all to his wife, he knows that despite being every bit as guilty, he knows HE will still get away with it but his counterparty will not.

    • Rayne says:

      I’ve written about some the potential corruption opportunities related to golf courses. We’re not able to examine that any more than the “general corruption” to which you referred unless subpoenas and discovery provide access.

      Instead, like Al Capone and his organized crime, we’re presented with an opportunity to nail Trump on his tax fraud. So be it.

      • Kenster42 says:

        And, unfortunately and unsatisfyingly, if we nail Trump it will only be through his company, not him personally.

        • Rayne says:

          He’s 75, in lousy health from chronic drug abuse and crappy diet, going through the gestures of life to keep the fail away. Even if he is finally prosecuted for his criminality you’ll need to embrace the truth he’s going to escape real punishment through the ultimate exit he’s built for himself. Nailing him on his tax frauds while laying out his fake wealth in sunlight may be all we get.

          Along with enough information to prevent a future scofflaw-in-chief through legislation.

    • bmaz says:

      There is no single prosecutor for “general corruption”. The “legal process” focuses on what it can.

  9. bawiggans says:

    The Trump Organization is a hedgehog that no one without a pretty special remit and lots of protection wants to take on. The irony of Trump’s political success is that becoming that kind of public figure finally provides the protection for prosecutors to go after him.

      • bawiggans says:

        That may be a fair point, but Trump went after O’Brien for defamation and lost badly. Jose Andres had this to say after settling the Trump-initiated suit against him:
        “I am pleased that we were able to resolve our differences and move forward cooperatively, as friends,” said Andrés in the statement. “I have great respect for the Trump Organization’s commitment to excellence in redeveloping the Old Post Office. … Going forward, we are excited about the prospects of working together with the Trump Organization on a variety of programs to benefit the community.” Yes, Andrés was able to walk away from that one under his own power.

        Hedgehogs, while always dangerous, are designed to scare off those who would attack them and to exact a high price from any who dare. They are not optimized for initiating offensive action. Trump, a man of little imagination, is not at his best or strongest initiating anything. He is a reactionary through and through and he loves the threat of hitting back ten times harder. It’s his thing.

      • Kenster42 says:

        I would argue that Andres did some damage to his brand by having to publish that cynical, disingenuous, craptastic statement that bawiggans quoted above. Even worse, it was a joint statement with the lovely Donald Trump Jr. Not exactly the principled “stick it the man” swashbuckler image that Andres has tried to construct for himself.

  10. Doctor My Eyes says:

    On the positive side, he likely paid US citizens well above the going rate to rake the forests as a hedge against fire.

  11. AndTheSlithyToves says:

    lolol, Rayne–you’ve made my day, again, with one of your multiple amusing monikers for TFG.
    As his niece, Mary, opined, it’s always too much and never enough.
    This reminded me of the breakup of the Trump-Epstein bromance in 2004 over Palm Beach real estate. Note: “Ultimately, Trump was the higher bidder at $41.35 million. In an interview with the Post, Luzinski characterized the face-off as ‘two very large Palm Beach egos going at it.’ Four years later, Trump would sell the property to—who else?—a Russian businessman named Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million. (Apropos of nothing at all, Rybolovlev was charged with corruption last year, which he denied.)”
    https://www.insider.com/why-trump-epstein-stopped-talking-palm-beach-mansion-2019-8
    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/08/donald-trump-jeffrey-epstein-falling-out

    • Rugger9 says:

      I’ve got some that were squelched on decorum grounds, but really there is no bottom for describing Individual-1. He makes up for it by his corporeal bottom.

    • Scott Johnson says:

      Something tells me that the real estate in question isn’t worth $95M….

      Buying and selling assets at other than FMV, especially among wealthy parties who you think should be a) dealing at arms length and b) capable of proper due diligence and asset appraisal, is a big red flag.

      • Kenster42 says:

        You would think so, but Rybolovlev demolished the mansion, split the lot into 3 separate parcels and eventually sold them all for $109M total in 2016 and 2017. And I guarantee you that given the real estate explosion in Palm Beach over the last 2 years, those 3 lots are probably worth $150M at this point. Never underestimate the insanity of the south Florida real estate market.

  12. Geoguy says:

    David Cay Johnston at DCReport.org posted an article a few days ago describing how wealthy tax cheats will be able to keep on cheating because of recent IRS changes made by Trump and inaction by Biden. See “Biden Embraces Trump Plan to Help Wealthy Tax Cheats”
    By David Cay Johnston, January 13, 2022

    • P J Evans says:

      Not mentioning, I suspect that Biden is having to deal with getting appointees vetted and confirmed by a Senate that was/is mostly good with the former guy’s choices.

        • Scott Johnson says:

          Turning “there’s a mess Trump left that hasn’t been cleaned up by Biden” into “Biden embraces mess Trump left” seems to be a popular past-time in some quarters. It’s a lot easier to break things than to fix them…

          • Geoguy says:

            Oh, I agree. I was reluctant to suggest the post because of the title. Mr. Johnston is a long time follower of the tax code in general and of Trump in particular. He pretty much advocates for a fair and enforced tax system.

  13. Chirrut Imwe says:

    Did anyone else listen to the “Trump, Inc.” podcast from WNYC & ProPublica? They produced around 75 episodes from 2018 to 2021 (still available). I thought they did a very good in-depth look into all aspects of TFG’s finances. Quite a bit about this topic of under- and over-valuing property for loan & tax purposes (I don’t remember if they talked about Seven Springs specifically), as well as suing & bullying when he didn’t get his way (waaaa).

  14. Rita says:

    Good article.

    This story highlights two Trump trademark real estate moves – the dodgey tax dodge based on exaggerated value of the conservation easement but also the failure to do the due diligence at acquisition, like he did with the Plaza Hotel or his Atlantic City casinos. How could he buy a property for golf course development without checking out beforehand access, competition from other golf courses, possible litigation from neighbors, etc.?

    But where were the taxing authorities when he claimed the exorbitant deduction for the conservation easement? The “highest and best use” of that land appears to be a big playground for the family because of it access easement issues.

  15. Bugboy says:

    “Trump had to have known…”
    In Trump World(tm), “known” is not the same thing as “cared”. He KNEW the property was going to be difficult to develop, bordering on both a preserve AND reservoir, but what did he care? Those are just obstacles to his cookies, and he’s gonna get his cookies.

    Conservation easement? I’m willing to bet that the guy we have taken to calling “Dump” thinks the “League of Conservation Voters” is a conservative voter’s group…

    • Rayne says:

      We’re not going to agree about known/cared. My point is that he’s a fucking hack at property development who thinks throwing money (not necessarily his) and labor (definitely not his) at a challenge will make it go away. As for the reservoir and preserve: those were features he wanted, not obstacles. The property had waterfront and a permanent green zone. That’s all he fucking saw like some stupid city rube.

      And we won’t agree on how he interpreted “conservation” — he literally saw it as a means to conserve green. Like money.

        • Rayne says:

          I’m on the fence about his awareness; his grip on reality has been sliding for sometime and was always a little on the iffy side because of his malignant narcissism. Has he leaned so hard into the kayfabe of The Apprentice and WWE wrestling that he treats the public’s disgust of him as part of the schtick? *shrug*

          Whatever. Ultimately, karma bats last; she’s just damned slow about it.

      • madwand says:

        I’m with PJ’s comment below, but Trump will obfuscate, delay, sue, do everything he can to put off the day of reckoning. Michael Cohen on MSNBC thinks the James case is the one with the most probability of winning of all the cases including the one in Georgia where they were less than enthused even when they have the tapes. Seems the TV lawyers think that proving intent in the Ga case is problematic so rather than jump to conclusions I’ll stick with the hope that one of these cases will prove more than problematic to Trump and land him in jail. But he will obfuscate, sue, delay delay delay.

  16. Barbara Collins says:

    I have thought so many times of entering the blogging world as I love reading them. I think I finally have the courage to give it a try. Thank you so much for all of the ideas!

  17. Judy says:

    I think this quote, by Stern in 2010, from the Reuters article you link to, describes Trump in a nutshell.
    “What amazes me is that we seem to ignore the reality of what and who we are dealing with, acting like he thinks and behaves like an ethical person,” Stern wrote in a memo reviewed by Reuters. “Why do we now expect him to live up to his word, when he does not do that?”
    At both golf courses he was probably aware of the issues but believed his usual bullying/suing m.o. would get him what he wanted.
    I am really hoping that one of the many legal cases against him makes it to court and sticks.

      • Bobby Gladd says:

        Suffocatingly relentless, utterly, struttingly shameless, thermonuclearly bullying, bulldozing sociopathy. Took him all the way to the White House. Stunning indeed. Depressingly so.

        • xy xy says:

          “Suffocatingly relentless, utterly, struttingly shameless, thermonuclearly bullying, bulldozing sociopathy. Took him all the way to the White House.”
          And because of the public eye of the WH, hopefully into troubles for the rest of his and his family’s lives.
          There’s so much good that he could have done while in the WH and ridden off, probably unscathed for his previous crimes, and been looked up to for infamy.
          Yet like McConnell, and so many others, they care to only be villains.

  18. Eureka says:

    Grifters come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. [Sentimental Oprah-guest voice for a touch of rage]


    Meanwhile here’s what the actual Wharton students are up to:
    https://twitter.com/NinaStrohminger/status/1483992827482804224

    As one commenter noted, these are the folks that would fire you, take your pension, and sleep well at night. Another noted that the avg. income in the community where Wharton is located is under 35k/y.

    • P J Evans says:

      These are people who think that *starting pay* is 100K. Or more. They need to get out into the real world more.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The facts of reality need fertile ground on which to grow. So, I would look first at the inherent lack of empathy among those admitted to HBS. The salary figure for those respondents, for example, is at the bottom of the range they themselves expect to earn their first year out.

        • P J Evans says:

          I’d like a business-school entrance requirement that they have to work (at least) a year at a job that pays less than $100K per year, before they can get in. Teach them business reality, rather than their dreams of fast wealth and early retirement.

          • Rayne says:

            A considerable percentage of B-school students aren’t wealthy and actually do have to put themselves through school by working low wage jobs. That’d be me among them.

            What would be nice is if it became a necessity for students to intern for $15/hour through a 2-year practicum rotating through (4) semester-long roles in (4) different industries. We expect nurses and teachers to intern, why not business students?

            • Eureka says:

              Same with my bschooler frosh roommate; I assessed they’d paired us together due to “normal” socioeconomic status. One of the first parties I went to was at a scion’s condo (they don’t stay in dorms) (products you’ve inevitably got in your home; slathered on your baby; perhaps recently had injected) and I was blown away by the concept of such enormous wealth. Back then there weren’t really all of these billionaires like today: it was either rare multi-millionaires or rarer zillionaires like this family.

              Another bschooler friend was the primary campus emissary for universal health care (pre-dating Hillary Clinton’s long-forgotten efforts), having encountered a medical emergency while studying abroad in Finland.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL just remembered the pudgy orange weasel is a Wharton graduate.

      IOW, the school churns out overpriced out-of-touch leaders of industry branded with their imprimatur, and in Trump’s case, the added fillip of being known by Wharton Prof. William Kelley’s “the dumbest goddamn student I ever had,” who was admitted to Wharton only because Fred Trump pulled in chits.

      • Eureka says:

        Lol yes we recounted that Kelley opinion chez nous.

        The other thing in my mind’s eye (re: “lifetime”, as in I’ve been reading about this grifter and his angles for one) was which child actress was contemporaneously at Studio 54 with him (if not “with” him). Pix of a baby Drew Barrymore floated forth until I recalled it was instead a tween Brooke Shields.

        Blech.

  19. HW3 says:

    “absence of the Internal Revenue Service and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. How did this scofflaw get away with millions of dollars in sketchy tax deductions all this time?”

    I think it’s some kind of regulatory capture where the revenue agencies are supplicants to the wealthy and enforcers to the rest of us.

    • xy xy says:

      From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Rettig :
      Current IRS Commissioner appointed by Trump:

      Relationship to Trump administration
      In 2016, prior to being nominated to his post in the IRS by Trump, Rettig wrote an op-ed in Forbes defending Trump’s decision not to release his tax returns.[27] The piece also critiqued the work of what Rettig called a “wealth squad” within the IRS that targeted high-income individuals for audits.[28]

      At his nomination, Rettig received criticism for failing to disclose roughly a million dollars worth of rental income he had made from Trump-branded hotel rental units.[29]

    • skua says:

      https: //bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/torre-tees-it-up/
      Michael S. Schmidt’s 2008 take on that tournament in his “Bats: The Yankees, the Mets, and Major League Baseball” NYT blog.
      The significance of the elite’s co-mingling was then unremarkable.

  20. skua says:

    ” … authorities to deal with him at the time … failed to do their duty and the public has no idea why.”

    This crapulent situation:
    Corrodes any sense of equality between commonfolk and the elite.
    Promotes widespread disillusionment, and disengagement, with society.
    Demonstrates that (when specific ways of enforcing laws and regulations are used/abused that) government is failure, and stuff in the brackets is not considered.
    Nurtures the conditions for QAnon-type conspiracy fantasies, allowing them to thrive.
    Increases a sense that “things are out of control in the country” which reduces general happiness and satisfaction.

  21. Leu2500 says:

    Re the IRS.

    We did learn that it believes a $75M refund is erroneous & that instead he owes ~$100M in taxes & penalties.

    But some Congressional committee that we never heard of b4 has to approve this

    Given how dysfunctional Congress is, I doubt they’ll ever give the IRS approval

  22. Marinela says:

    Regarding the civil investigation from AG versus the criminal investigation from Manhattan DA and that they joined forces.
    I read about a potential issue that AG in the civil investigation cannot compel testimony and then turn around and use it in the criminal investigation.
    Is this correct, or this is wishful thinking narrative put out by Trump attorneys?

      • bmaz says:

        NY is goofy. By my understanding, and it may not be exactly right, the NY AG has little criminal jurisdiction not specifically designated by the Governor. But James does have civil jurisdiction. I am not aware of anything that prevents her from sharing information absent a protective order from a court.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I suspect the AG’s lack of criminal jurisdiction is an outgrowth of the corruption that has purportedly plagued Albany since the days of the Erie Canal. Vanderbilt and subsequent railroad and banking magnates had virtual cheat sheets on what it cost to persuade a legislator to vote his way. In much the same way, the Big Four’s Collis Huntington – with a “t” – had one for how much it cost to sway congresscritters.

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