Editorials

Tough enough? Trump U was run out of Texas

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Donald Trump, presumptive Republican presidential nominee, at a campaign event at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California, U.S, on Thursday, June 2, 2016.
Donald Trump, presumptive Republican presidential nominee, at a campaign event at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California, U.S, on Thursday, June 2, 2016. Bloomberg

If Greg Abbott did nothing wrong in 2010 when the Texas attorney general’s office chased the flimsy Trump University seminars out of Texas, that is something to brag about.

Yet now that Abbott is governor and Ken Paxton is attorney general, Paxton is silencing one former state lawyer from discussing that investigation.

We are left to wonder whether Texans should be so proud.

In 2008 and 2009, Better Business Bureau offices in Texas received 30 complaints about $1,495 real estate “workshops” that primarily worked to wheedle more money out of attendees for courses up to a $34,995 Elite program.

A Keller man complained that “mentoring” was never provided: “Is there any wonder I have lost confidence in Trump University? … Nobody follows up. … A woman who answers the phone at Trump U snickers at me.”

Like most Trump ventures, the real estate seminars had mostly relied on Trump’s celebrity image to sell the product.

“Priceless Secrets for Making a Fortune,” the newspaper ads claimed, saying, “Now Is The Time to Invest in Foreclosures — How to Find Distressed Homeowners — People Are Making Million$. Now You Can, Too.”

Attendees wanted to get rich like Trump.

Obviously, they should have started a seminar.

According to documents reviewed by the Houston Chronicle, Texas state attorneys discussed suing Trump University for $2.6 million in refunds for 456 Texans, $5.4 million with legal costs and damages.

Two former state attorneys disagree about how the investigation ended.

A former deputy director of the consumer protection division, John Owens of Houston, has said that for political reasons, Trump was not sued. Paxton responded by warning him not to disclose anything about the case.

But former state litigator David Morales, now with the Austin office of Fort Worth-based Kelly Hart & Hallman, said in a statement that he decided not to pursue the case.

“I am proud that our Consumer Protection Division was able to get Trump University to immediately and permanently leave the state of Texas,” he wrote.

Three years later, Trump made campaign donations of $10,000 and $25,000 to Abbott. Those are primarily of interest because they came about the same time as challenged donations to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, but her office was still considering then whether to sue Trump.

On the surface, it appears that Texas’ state lawyers made a logical if timid decision not to pursue further claims.

Paxton should not be reluctant to show us more.

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