Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Trump University and Debt Buyers
June 6, 2016 5:00 AM - Season 3, Episode 14 - Subscribe

This week...
  • Trump and his businesses, it turns out, have been involved in over 3,500 lawsuits over three decades. LWT focuses on those concerning Trump University. YouTube: Part 1 (4m) and Part 2 (9m)
  • And Now: Wolf Blitzer States the Obvious
  • Main story: Debt, how Americans are in it (to the tune of $12 trillion dollars), how they get in it (often unavoidable medical reasons), how debt buying has become an industry to itself, and how it operates (predictably, badly) To demonstrate how easy it is to organize as debt buyers and buy debt, LWT organized as debt buyers in Mississippi, set up an EXTREMELY bare bones website, bought $15M of medical debt, the debt of 9,000 Texas people, and forgave it. The cost to them was a mere $60K, but it was technically the largest televised giveaway in history, beating out Oprah Winfrey's famous car giveaway. Oliver: "It is done! It is done! I am the new queen of daytime talk!" YouTube (21m)

The different opening graphic this week was a picture of Muhammad Ali, with the caption Ringus Rex.
  • The 2016 US Presidential Election: "Or, as it's increasingly known, America's Fucktastic Cirque de Dismay."
  • Donald Trump: "A punchline that is quickly becoming a nightmare."
  • Las Vegas: "The gold standard of shitty places."
The list of lawyer shows that, if you add up all their episodes, are still short of the number of Trump lawsuits:
  • Law & Order
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent
  • Law & Order: Los Angeles
  • The Practice
  • Ally McBeal
  • LA Law
  • Boston Legal
  • Night Court
  • The Good Wife
  • Matlock
  • J.A.G.
  • Perry Mason
  • Judging Amy
  • The Guardian
  • Public Defender
  • Owen Marshall Councelor at Law
  • Harry's Law
  • Courthouse
  • Suits
  • Family Law
  • Sweet Justice
  • The D.A. (1971)
  • The D.A. (2004)
  • Reasonable Doubts
  • Damages
  • Shark
  • The Defenders
  • The Paper Chase
  • Head Cases
  • Judd for the Defense
  • First Years
Here is the list of stories of Donald Trump's awfulness that Last Week Tonight didn't have time to cover in their first piece of Donald Trump in February, which scrolls by rapidly:
  • Trump University Lawsuits
  • Alleged Exaggeration of Philanthropic Activity
  • Trump Taj Mahal 1991 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
  • Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Trump Castle Casino Resort 1992 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
  • Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts 2004 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
  • Trump Entertainment Resorts 2009 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
  • Alleged Public Mockery of the Physically Disabled
  • Alleged Withdrawal of Financial Assistance to his Nephew's Chronically Ill Infant Child Out of Spite
  • Possible Exaggeration of Ex-Wife Ivana Trump's Athletic Accomplishments
  • European-Style Enthusiasm for Competitive Cycling as Short-Lived Sponsor of the Tour De Trump
  • 1988 Settlement of Federal Trade Commission Lawsuit
  • Close Friendship with Roy Cohn
  • Repeated Use of Roy Cohn as Lawyer
  • Settlement With U.S. Justice Department Regarding Alleged Violation of Fair Housing Act
  • Health Code Violations at Trump Steakhouse
  • Extramarital Affair
  • Demolition of Priceless Art Deco Sculptures During Construction of Trump Tower
  • Loan from Father Involving Millions of Dollars in Casino Chips
  • Trump Construction Projects Allegedly Using Labor of Undocumented Immigrants
  • Ownership of the Defunct USFL Team The New Jersey Generals
  • Fondness for Well-Done Steak.
"You don't sell products, benefits or solutions--you sell feelings." Quote from the sales playbook of Trump University.
posted by JHarris (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
That debt forgiveness "stunt" is amazing! I can't wait to watch this.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:49 AM on June 6, 2016

Loan from Father Involving Millions of Dollars in Casino Chips

I'm surprised this one hasn't caught on more. In 1991, long after Trump supposedly "pulled himself up his bootstraps" with a job at his parents' real estate company and his "small" $1 million dollar loan, his father bought $3.5 million in chips at his struggling casino but never used them, effectively giving him a multimillion dollar cash infusion. This is illegal and they were fined by the gaming commission. But this guy is supposedly a business mastermind who's a billionaire? Who sold steaks at Sharper Image and had a scammy university and was on a cheesy reality show?
posted by bluecore at 6:33 AM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

I agree the debt forgiveness stunt was incredible. There should be charities devoted to buying cheap medical debt and forgiving it. $15 million of results for $60k invested is a damn sight better than a lot of other charities can claim.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:37 AM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Mr. Encyclopedia:
posted by hobgadling at 6:45 AM on June 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

I actually caught the show live last night. That giveaway was amazing. If debt buying is that goddamn easy, I really want to help and just spend $50 to wipe away a thousand dollars that someone cannot pay. Thanks for the link hobgadling.
posted by numaner at 10:05 AM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really hope that they built that Big Red Button stage sturdily so that they can use it over and over again until they bust their production budget.

(Can I mention here that there was a special Bugle podcast last week, admitting what we all knew all along -- that J.O. wasn't coming back to the podcast? *sigh*)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:29 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Rolling Jubilee web site only lists debt buys in like 2013 and 2014, and the blog was last updated in late 2015. Have they suspended their work, or only their site updates? Because I love what they're doing, and want them to keep doing it.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:32 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

More discussion about the debt buying on the Blue.

I heard about a debt buying charity like this shortly after the housing crash; but it's harder to have sympathy for people underwater on their mortgages, I think. Not that that situation isn't sympathetic - but there's mental and rhetorical barriers in the way of sympathy, like "Why did that person buy that mortgage in the first place" and "why aren't they living within their means" and "so they get to keep their house for free?". I kind of hope he tries to tackle that situation too. Even if it's in retrospective.

CARP really was just a one-time stunt, right? He didn't build it up into a proper charity?
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:48 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

He can use Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption to run the charity!
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:41 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Goddammit, HBO, quit sliding the show a few minutes so my DVR loses the best parts.
posted by Etrigan at 6:02 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

It might not just that Etrigan, it seems that the episode actually ran a little long, the complete running time I saw was nearly 35 minutes.
posted by JHarris at 6:49 AM on June 7, 2016

That may be as well, but I definitely got a long couple of minutes of Veep on the front end.
posted by Etrigan at 6:54 AM on June 7, 2016

The list of lawyer shows

He forgot Harvey Birdman.
posted by banshee at 7:50 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Baffler has an interview with the Rolling Jubilee people that has some good background on how Oliver's staff erased the Rolling Jubilee activists and their debt strike movement from the story just because they didn't want to be associated with Occupy activists. I'm quite upset at the show about this - it's an extremely cowardly move for a show that likes to paint itself as being brave truth-tellers.

They’re taking the work out of context entirely and running it as pure spectacle, without any response to the structural problem that we all know exists. We asked them why [they wouldn’t mention us]. We asked, “Why don’t you simply turn it over to the Rolling Jubilee, just as we have done most recently with a massive judgment debt lawsuit [with the New Economy Project] where we retired $800 million [as part of the settlement]?” They said they thought it would be questionable to have some sort of association with an organization that had its founding members coming out of Occupy.
posted by dialetheia at 12:22 PM on June 10, 2016

They do mention rolling jubilee in the piece... They even provide an address to donate.
posted by French Fry at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2016

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