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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

 
It isn't just Trump U and Trump Mortgage, folks

by digby















Does it make sense to anyone that a man worth 10 billion dollars would be a cheap huckster like this? Something just doesn't add up:

[A]mong the most baffling elements of the media’s obsession with Clinton’s speaking fees: Why are her lecture circuit earnings the only ones that matter? When so many prominent Republican candidates previously cashed big checks making paid speeches (and some of them cashed the checks while running for president), why are only the Democratic front-runner’s speeches considered to be newsworthy and borderline controversial?

Those recent Republican candidates include Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani, who pocketed more than $11 million in the thirteen months prior to announcing his candidacy in 2007.

And yes, Donald Trump.

It turns out that a big chunk of Trump’s speaking fees revolve around ACN, a controversial multilevel marketing company that’s been accused of bilking people out of millions of dollars.

If presented in proper context by the press, Trump’s long-running and lucrative relationship with ACN would essentially eliminate questions about Clinton’s speeches. And if queries persisted, the press would have to demand Trump also release nearly a decade worth of transcripts.

In truth, there has been some good reporting on Trump's questionable relationship with ACN. (Interestingly, some of it has been done by the conservative press.) But apart from the initial flurry of reports last summer, Trump’s ACN association -- like so many scandals involving the presumptive Republican nominee -- has largely faded from view. And virtually none of the coverage has focused on the issue of paid speeches, or suggested Trump release transcripts to his six-figure ACN pep rallies, the way the press has hounded Clinton over that issue.

Here’s the key point: Clinton’s paid speeches, whether to financial institutions, universities or trade associations, have never represented endorsements. On the other hand, Trump has spent years giving paid speeches and appearances specifically to ACN and quite clearly endorsing the company: “ACN has a reputation for success, success that’s really synonymous with the Trump name.”

In 2009 and 2011, ACN executives appeared on Trump’s NBC reality show, Celebrity Apprentice. And during one episode, Trump touted a “revolutionary” videophone that ACN was rolling out: “I simply can’t imagine anybody using this phone and not loving it.” (The product quickly flopped.)

ACN’s website once bragged how, "Trump is a fixture at ACN International Training Events, setting the record for the most appearances from the ACN stage by any ACN special guest speaker." (The boasts have since been deleted.)

In fact, it seemed the whole point of his speeches and personal appearances were for Trump to boost ACN’s brand and convince more people to buy into its sales system. “To prop up its business, ACN relies heavily on Trump to recruit news salespeople into the fold,” The Daily Caller noted.

Being a multilayered marketing company means ACN relentlessly recruits people to sell its products.

As Slate explained:

Products sold through the multilevel marketing model aren’t sold in stores. Instead individuals purchase a startup kit (always encouraged, but not always required) and then contract with the company for the right to sell the merchandise to other individuals. They receive a commission on each sale but are not actually employed by the company. So far, so familiar. That’s the classic Avon Lady model. 
But selling goods one by one to your neighbors and friends isn’t the way to riches, no matter how much you hound them or otherwise guilt-trip them into making purchases. So multilevel marketing companies incentivize their salespeople to recruit other salespeople, promising them a cut of all that person’s sales, as long as both the original seller and the new recruit remain active.

Becoming an ACN salesperson costs money. The company charges a $499 initiation fee, and then “ACN representatives are charged a $149 annual renewal fee, and they often pay $39.99 a month for a package of technology and marketing materials, plus extra fees to attend company meetings and conferences.”

Trump now seems to realize the political downside to his ACN cheerleading. When asked about his cozy, decade-long relationship with ACN, Trump last year told The Wall Street Journal he didn’t really know much about the company. (“I know nothing about the company other than the people who run the company.”) This is a company, as the Journal reported, that has paid Trump “millions of dollars” “over the past decade.”

Indeed, Trump once bragged that in 2006 the company paid him $2.5 million for a single speech. And last year when Trump filed a financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission, three ACN speeches/appearances from 2014 and 2015 were listed among his income. Trump pocketed $450,000 for each one.

Why are Trump’s ACN six-figure paychecks a big deal? And why, if Hillary Clinton had spent years hyping a company as suspicious as ACN, would there probably already have been Republican-led congressional hearings into that relationship?
There's much more at the link about this particular con. The company is under investigation for fraud all over the country.

Here's Trump being sold as ACN's partner:



Here's the phone endorsement:



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