That’s right, it’s another Donald Trump column today.
What now? The fact that New Jersey governor and failed presidential candidate Chris Christie endorsed Trump on Friday.
The irony of Christie’s endorsement is that only last month he announced a state takeover of Atlantic City’s finances, because the city synonymous with Trump is on the verge of bankruptcy. (Of course, that’s on top of the irony of how many attacks Christie leveled at Trump, and the broader irony that anyone with half a brain would endorse Trump.)
Now, I’m not going to make a bombastic claim that Trump is entirely responsible for the city’s decline. A major blow is due to the increased competition from casinos and racinos that have sprung up in nearby states, a rebranding of Las Vegas as a family-friendly destination, and even competing boardwalks in other New Jersey cities. Another contributing factor is that not enough planning went into the city after legalizing gambling, including not having the best access from New York City and not helping the community surrounding the casinos.
Nevertheless, Trump’s actions have played their own part in setting up Atlantic City for its financial woes.
Trump alone filed for bankruptcy four times on companies that owned his Atlantic City casinos, and Carl Icahn declared bankruptcy again after taking them over, a frequency not replicated by the owners of Atlantic City’s other casinos. At least one gaming industry analyst believes it is the result of Trump neglecting his casinos:
Relative to his peer group, the properties weren’t as well-maintained as the others, which helped his decline. Trump didn’t do Atlantic City a lotta good in the later years.
And it’s not as if Trump’s casinos were doing well, then declined later. The Trump Taj Mahal had financial issues starting from the year it opened. The allegedly brilliant businessman Trump spent so much money to make an ornate casino, borrowing over a billion dollars, that he couldn’t generate enough revenue to pay his creditors on time.
An industry analyst at the brokerage firm Janney Montgomery Scott predicted Trump would be unable to make the first bond payment, so Trump threatened to sue the firm, which then fired the analyst. When the prediction came true, the analyst sued Trump for defamation and settled out of court.
Trump was also not always helpful to local businesses. He had a strategy of using vendors, dragging his feet on payment, then only paying them 70 percent of the agreed upon price. It reached the point that vendors began factoring it in when quoting prices to him.
One business owner who sold pianos to Trump Taj Mahal recalled,
I delivered the pianos, and I waited and I waited to get paid. And finally I heard from them that I had three choices: to accept 70 percent of the bid or to wait until the casino could afford to pay the bill in full. Or I could force them into bankruptcy with everybody else and maybe get 10 cents on the dollar. I took the 70 percent, and I lost 30 percent.
Other vendors were not lucky enough to get 70 percent and ended up receiving almost nothing when Trump would declare one of his four bankruptcies.
“The fact is, there were a lot of small contractors and vendors who got hurt, who went out of business because Trump did not pay contracts on time,” said New Jersey State Senator Jim Whelan, who was formerly mayor of Atlantic City.
Current owner of the Trump casinos Carl Icahn griped that the collective bargaining agreements with the hotel workers union was also a major hindrance to exiting bankruptcy. Icahn ended up getting a court order to end their health plans and pensions.
And how did Trump, the self-proclaimed brilliant negotiator, handle the unions’ benefits? A Trump Taj Mahal worker recalled, “I remember once the union was negotiating with his people, and he called down from New York and said, ‘Give them what they want.’”
(Not that I’m personally saying the workers aren’t entitled to decent compensation.)
What does Trump nowadays say about the sad state of Atlantic City? Rather than take even the slightest bit of blame, he plays himself up as being a shrewd businessman for jumping ship at the right time:
I had the good sense, and I’ve gotten a lot of credit in the financial pages—seven years ago, I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered. And I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I’m very proud of it.
Governor Christie, however, is not too proud of the current state of Atlantic City. Nevertheless, he has no problem endorsing the man who brags about abandoning it.