Review of The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced American and Enriched Himself and His Family By David Cay Johnston rating ****
While this book doesn’t reveal anything I didn’t already know, it does a good job of exposing the litany of money-making scams that Trump and his gang have conducted before, during, and after his four years in office.
How he manages to stay relevant is beyond me. Trump’s shameless overcharging, backdoor transactions, and use of his real estate holdings to conduct government business is astounding. But Trump was not alone in his unethical practices. You can add to the list of scam artists the entire Trump family and a host of sycophants like Flynn, Bannon, Manafort, Gates, Ross, and many more.
However, the biggest scam of all is the one mentioned in the book’s closing pages. It has to do with Trump’s incessant fundraising efforts. During Trump’s four years in office, I wanted to see the nonsense they were pushing on their supporters. So, I clicked on a Facebook ad and got placed into the Trump conspiracy spin cycle. Towards the end of 2020, as the election neared, the Trump emails and text messages were nonstop. It wasn’t unusual to receive as many as fifteen or twenty requests for money a day. They usually came with a poll. Do you agree that Trump is the best president in history? Do you think Joe Biden would be a disaster for our country? Do you want the radical democrats to turn our country into a socialist nation? Stupid stuff like that. I tried unsubscribing. For a while, they had an actual link to unsubscribe. It didn’t do anything. Eventually, they just removed the unsubscribe link. But for the Trump loyalists who gave them their credit card number, that’s where the big cheat really happened. The donation page had a check box that said, “make this a monthly donation.” It was hard to see if you weren’t looking for it. It was only after people (Trump supporters) started noticing recurring charges on their credit card bills. Trump eventually had to refund $121 million of ill-gotten funds. How many people didn’t catch the theft?
Once Trump left office, his money train came to an end, or at least you would have thought. Not so for Trump. Only Trump could come up with a way to steal even more money from supporters. His new money-making scheme was to form a Political Action Committee called Save America. The pitch this time was that Trump needed cash for his Stop the Steal efforts. A former president, twice impeached, raised $255 million. Once again, he required donors to uncheck the recurring donation checkbox. Trump told his unsuspecting donors that he needed the money to pay lawyers to prove election fraud. So, how much of that $255 million went for lawyer fees? How about less than $9 million. Trump is free to use the money however he likes. Trump’s blatant money grab continues to this day.
The author closes the book with several suggestions for improving campaign finance laws and other regulations dealing with business and political service.