Donald Trump says he buys favors from politicians with campaign donations. That could be why Andrew Cuomo as attorney general didn’t prosecute Trump University.
Throughout this campaign season, Donald Trump’s Republican rivals have tried, mostly in vain, to score points off his generous contributions to Democratic politicians. But while Trump has given lavishly to liberal office-holders, thus far the charge hasn’t hurt him much. This is because his excuse—that as a businessman he had to cover all his bases—has passed muster with enough voters. But a deeper look into his statements about his past campaign contributions shows he is saying much more than that.
Trump has in no uncertain terms explained that he has received political favors for his gifts to political campaigns. In fact, he has used these alleged quid pro quo arrangements as evidence that he is uniquely suited to end corruption in Washington. Consider this statement from last year: “Who knows better than me? I give to everybody. They do whatever I want. It’s true.”
While Trump is happy to describe these transactions in general terms, he has been short on specifics. What favors has he received from these politicians eager to line their coffers with his coin? Since Trump won’t say, we have to look for them. We have to find the politicians he has given the most to, for the longest period of time, and see if any potential favors present themselves.
In Trump’s home state of New York, one politician stands out in this respect, but not one we might expect. That politician is Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Trump Gives Big to Cuomo
Over at National Review, Deroy Murdock has done the heavy lifting by amassing a spreadsheet of Trump’s donations to New York state (NYS) politicians since 2001. Between 2001 and 2009, Trump gave $64,000 to various Cuomo campaigns. This is more than he gave to any other NYS politician in this time period.
So, why do we see all this love and cash for the liberal scion of the Cuomo clan? Perhaps it’s as simple as that the Cuomos are an important family in New York. This family was for a time tied by marriage to the Kennedys. Maybe Trump just wanted to be close to that kind of fame and power.
But if it is true, as Trump claims, that the beneficiaries of his largesse give him whatever he wants, is there something he might have wanted from Cuomo—and is there any evidence Cuomo might have given him what he wanted?
Enter Trump University
Trump University opened its doors in 2005. Almost immediately, the state told it to stop calling itself a university, as it was not accredited. At that time the attorney general of New York was Eliot Spitzer, another politician to whom Trump donated heavily. By the time Andrew Cuomo took over as attorney general, the office had taken no action to punish Trump University for continuing to use that term.
Trump gave Cuomo $10,000 for his 2006 attorney general campaign—a large sum, even for Trump. Sure enough, Trump University continued to go unchallenged by Cuomo’s office. He took no action although complaints were lining up against Trump’s educational corporation. Even when, in 2010, the attorneys general of Texas and Florida opened investigations against Trump University, New York state was oddly quiet about it. Was it too quiet?
Consider Trump’s largest donation to Cuomo: a whopping $25,000 came in June 2009, as Cuomo was preparing to run for governor. Only months later, the other attorneys general would begin their actions against Trump University. Did Cuomo fail to follow suit because, as Trump claims, the cash meant he would do whatever Trump wanted? Was he afraid to turn off the spigot? Trump also provided him another $5,000 just four months later.
Buying Off the New Guy
With Cuomo presumably heading off to the governors’ mansion in 2011, Eric Schneiderman looked like a good bet to succeed him as attorney general. Not wanting to be left out in the cold, Trump gave $12,500 to Schneiderman’s campaign. It’s what businessmen do, and presumably Trump imagined it would be business as usual. Only it wasn’t.
Just months after Schneiderman took office in 2011, he began an investigation into Trump University. By 2013 he had filed a lawsuit alleging the enterprise was a scam and that Trump had lied when he promised students he would handpick teachers to guide them to Trumpian success in real estate.
Trump was not pleased. Shortly after the lawsuit was announced, he took Twitter:
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