Donald Trump Scammed $150,000 From 9/11 Relief Fund (VIDEO)

Donald Trump Scammed $150,000 From 9/11 Relief Fund (VIDEO)

Editor's note:
It has come to our attention that fact-checking website Snopes has incorrectly lumped this report in with an analysis of coverage by other publications which they rated “mostly false”. Generally, Snopes is a reliable fact-checker, however, in this case they were wrong to include this report, and Reverb Press stands by the veracity of our reporting. Please see the end of this article for more specific analysis of Snopes’ error in this regard.

Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, who claims to be worth $10 Billion (though recent reports suggest that could be as “little” as $150 Million), put money well ahead of the country he plans to make great again during her darkest hour when he took $150,000 earmarked by Congress for small businesses devastated by the 9/11 attacks. Trump, along with other financial giants exploited a loophole created by a state agency that ignored the federal definition of what qualified as a “small business”, according to a New York Daily News report:

Trump got $150,000 for his swanky property at 40 Wall Street because the Empire State Development Corporation, run by the state, didn’t enforce federal guidelines on what defines a small business. Instead, the state used much looser rules that let The Donald and others including Morgan Stanley and Bank of China take money that was earmarked by Congress to help small business owners in the neighborhood recover after the tragic attacks. 

In a 2006 expose, the Daily News uncovered the loophole that the Empire State Development Corporation used to funnel money away from small businesses and into the hands of people like Trump and corporations like Morgan Stanley, Dell, The AXA Group and others:

The firms were allowed to collect small-business grants because the state agency that dished out the free money, the Empire State Development Corp., ignored the federal definition of a small business and adopted a much looser standard. The ESDC used employee counts – setting the maximum for its $556 million Business Recovery Grant program at 500 workers – to determine whether applicants were small businesses. Federal law requires that the size category of the types of businesses most common in lower Manhattan – finance, insurance, real estate and law firms – be determined based on annual revenue. Only the wholesale, manufacturing and mining sectors – obviously uncommon downtown – are measured by number of employees. Also, in totaling the number of employees, the ESDC didn’t require applicants to include employees of subsidiaries and other affiliated businesses. Federal regulations require that linked companies are included in determining whether a business is small.

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Related: What Trump Said About 9/11 Proves the GOP Still Doesn’t Get It

Trump Taking 9/11 Funds Is ‘Indefensible’ – Congressman

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who represents New York’s 10th Congressional District where the 9/11 attacks took place, helped secure the funds for the small businesses at or around the World Trade Center. He told The Daily News that Trump was literally taking much-needed funds away from companies who didn’t have the resources that the wealthier developers and corporations did:

“It’s really indefensible that this money went to big guys like Trump. It’s unfortunate because it meant a lot of the small businesses didn’t get that money.”

In his 2004 best-selling book, “Trump: How To Get Rich“, the Donald made no attempt to hide just how beneficial owning the property was to his bottom line:

I make a great deal of money from 40 Wall Street. Aside from owning the most beautiful building in lower Manhattan, I have the added attraction of owning a particularly lucrative one, all because I watched the property carefully for decades, waiting for my moment, and knew what the other side was thinking.

When he’s not taking pages from the playbook of George Wallace (or worse), Trump is fueling his campaign with a brand of neo-nationalism that appears to resonate among older, whiter Americans that enjoy dressing themselves up in Old Glory and celebrate their bald eagle fetish. Yet the evidence continues to mount that he’s simply playing this demographic for fools. He’s carefully fostered this image as being the candidate who will fight for the little guy, but when the little guy was attacked by international terrorists, Donald Trump was muscling his way to the front of the line to grab the relief funds the federal government earmarked for them.

If Trump plans to run America like he runs his businesses, what does that say for the small business owner?

Why Snopes got it wrong:

As mentioned at the opening of this article, fact checking site Snopes inaccurately reported that this article is “mostly false”. In fact, this article is entirely correct.

In their summary of their analysis, Snopes reports that “what’s true” is that “A business owned or operated by Donald Trump was entitled to $150,000 in federal aid to businesses affected by the 9/11 attacks.” Which is the substance of our story, above. And then Snopes reports that “what’s false” is that “The grant money wasn’t specifically earmarked for small businesses nor was it improperly accessed by Trump. Trump’s businesses did not lie or mislead federal agencies to in order to qualify under the terms of the programs, which didn’t require businesses to have sustained physical damage to be entitled to the funds. Trump’s business also wasn’t the only large firm to qualify under criteria used by the agency tasked with distributing the grant money.”

Reverb Press reported, correctly, that Trump’s businesses qualified for “$150,000 in federal aid to businesses affected by 9/11” (to use Snopes’ description of the disbursement) by exploiting a loophole, This is factual.

Our report also points out a comment by New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represented the area specifically affected by the 9/11 attacks, the 10th District of New York, criticizing Trump for unethically taking funds which much smaller, needier businesses would otherwise have been able to draw from the fund. This, too, is factual – and a third party opinion by a duly elected member of Congress.

Snopes then took issue with the notion, reported by several media outlets, that the funds Trump drew had been earmarked by Congress for small businesses. However, Snopes’ own report acknowledges that the loophole which Trump was able to exploit involved the way the agency distributing the funds defined a “small” business. Snopes then goes on to offer PDF files from non-congressional agencies as evidence to back up their claim. However, these documents do not reveal legislative intent, and instead back up our reporting that agencies responsible for disbursing the sums to recipients were applying their own criteria, rather than relying on the federal government’s definition of a “small” business.

What DOES reveal legislative intent are the comments by members of Congress, regardless of partisan affiliation, which condemned the abuse of STAR funds and other 9/11 relief funds by those who were not among the most affected by the 9/11 attacks. Notably, Rep. Nadler’s remarks included in this article, and the remarks of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), which were the focus of this 2003 Senate press release.

In general, we here at Reverb Press have great respect for the work Snopes does. However, in this case, their analysis is deeply flawed. Please note, you can see the original version of this article at The Internet Archive, to confirm that our article remains substantively the same, aside from our response to Snopes.

~ Editor.

Ed Hanratty is a Reverb Press contributor and freelance political journalist. A lifelong New Jerseyan, he prides himself on having just enough Garden State sarcasm and skepticism to keep his bleeding heart in check. Keep up with Ed’s work and random ramblings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the links below…but not Snapchat — that’s where he’s decided to draw the social media line. (For Now)