Pearls of Wisdom: What’s the Donor Payoff?

Everyone in business is sometimes unhappy with what either regulators or competitors are doing. Very few of these business owners are invited to testify before a congressional committee that can take action about their complaints. The individuals who are granted the opportunity to argue their case before Congress often have one thing in common: they are wealthy political donors.

But how does this reality affect America? Let’s look at an example:

Donald Trump began developing Atlantic City casino hotels (which he later declared to be bankrupt) in the early 1980s. Those businesses tried to draw potential gamblers from New York City as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other places. In the early 1990s the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe started working on developing their Foxwoods gambling casino and resort in Connecticut. A large casino resort in Connecticut would compete with Mr. Trump’s properties in New Jersey.

Mr. Trump went to Washington D.C. to testify at a hearing of the House Native American Affairs Subcommittee on Tuesday October 5th, 1993. He testified at length, saying among other things that:

  • the tribe was just a few hundred greedy people who were keeping huge amounts of money for themselves;
  • that the tribe is a front and all of the money is going to organized crime;
  • that the tribe members “don’t look like Indians to me.” George Miller responded that he thought we had moved passed time when we discussed who looked Jewish or looked Italian, etc.

Mr. Trump openly explains that he makes political donations because the politicians are then responsive to him. I believe he is telling the truth about that. I don’t think it’s right though, that a rich political donor from New York testifies before Congress, making openly racist requests for federal legislation restricting the rights of his business competitors. It is not good for America that wealthy people use their wealth to gain more political power, and use their political power to gain still more wealth.

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