WASHINGTON – When The Washington Post’s Matea Gold reported this week that the Trump campaign is contesting $767,000 that its pollster Tony Fabrizio says he is owed, I could feel the Republican consultant’s pain.
Fabrizio was just the latest on a long list of people stiffed by Donald Trump. And now you can add one more to that list: me. I want my $49 back.
I know, I know. We had all been warned that Trump doesn’t make good on his commitments. Scores of times as businessman and candidate he has refused to pay, or deliver, what he owes. Heck, he’s even being sued on behalf of USA Freedom Kids, the three preteen girls who danced before one of his rallies in patriotic costumes.
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So I should have had my eyes wide open when I saw Trump’s video last week offering to put my name on a brass plaque on a wall in Trump Tower, for a contribution of only $49. “The wall has only space for 2,000 more supporters. Contribute today,” he said, showing the “very special” wall.
As one of the loudest Trump critics, I thought it would be exquisite to have my name engraved as part of the “select group” on Trump’s wall. I clicked through and authorized the $49 charge to my credit card.
And then, nothing. No acknowledgment. No response. No word about any wall with my name on it. I checked my spam filter: nothing. I checked my Visa statement: The charge had gone through.
Stiffed! And at great personal risk. Post employees aren’t supposed to donate to campaigns, and in 16 years I hadn’t – until the lure of Trump’s wall got me. We don’t want a contribution to create the appearance that we’re in the tank for a candidate, even if, in the case of Trump and me, the probability of creating such an impression is fairly low. My editors gave me the proverbial 40 lashes for my $49.
But those welts are nothing compared with the injuries Trump allegedly has done to those who have done business with him.
An investigation by USA Today earlier this year found 60 lawsuits and hundreds of liens, judgments and other government filings involving people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them. The aggrieved include 48 waiters, dozens of bartenders and hourly workers, real estate brokers, a glass company, a carpet company, painters – even law firms that defended him against charges that he stiffed those he owed. The paper found 24 violations of labor law for failing to pay overtime or the minimum wage, and liens filed by more than 200 contractors and employees who provided plumbing, electrical and HVAC work and the like.
At the first debate, Hillary Clinton singled out in the audience an architect Trump had stiffed and said she’d met “dishwashers, painters, architects, glass installers, marble installers, drapery installers … who you refused to pay when they finished the work that you asked them to do.”
Trump responded that “maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work, which our country should do, too.”
Apparently Trump’s belief that he can’t get good help these days extends to the campaign, which is disputing the $767,000 that Fabrizio, the pollster, says he’s owed. (The campaign says it doesn’t dispute the entire amount.) Federal Election Commission records also indicate the Trump campaign has yet to pay Michael Caputo, a former communications adviser.
Fabrizio and Caputo are big boys. But what about the three little girls who danced at a Trump rally in January, becoming a viral sensation? The father of one of them filed suit against the Trump campaign two months ago, saying the campaign didn’t make good on its promise to let them sell CDs at a Trump event and then had them travel, at their own expense, from Florida to a Trump event in Iowa before canceling their appearance.
“I’m not looking to do battle with the Trump campaign,” the dad, Jeff Popick, told the Post’s Philip Bump, “but I have to show my girls that this is the right thing.”
And now I stand with Popick, Fabrizio and hundreds of others in demanding from Trump what is ours. I wrote to Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks on Wednesday and asked whether she could tell me where I could find my name on the Trump Tower donor wall, or refund my $49. She indicated she was looking into it, but nothing happened.
I bet Trump isn’t even building that wall – and I paid for it!
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.