The GOP’s Licensing Deal


By Peter Horn | @PeterCHorn

They thought they were getting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom slice of the American dream. A condominium built to the specifications of luxury befitting a man whose name nearly always appears in gold.

Sure they saw the warning signs. He’d nearly lost it all in a series of failed Atlantic City casino investments, and did he really call into the New York tabloids under a false alias to brag about his lascivious pursuits?

Maybe he’s flawed, but aren’t we all? And doesn’t that make his return to prominence that much more impressive? That much more relatable? That much more American?

So they looked past the red flags and signed on the dotted line. Trump Ocean Resort Baja. Trump Towers Tampa. Trump Towers Fort Lauderdale. For some, the down payment represented a lifetime’s savings.

Contrary to what they were led to believe, these condo projects were not to be built by Donald Trump. Rather, the giant gold letters in the marketing materials were the product of a licensing deal.

But a pig with lipstick on it is still a pig. And a poorly built condo sporting gold letterhead is still a poorly built condo.

These investors learned the hard way what the GOP soon will: Donald Trump is not a master developer; he is a master of short-term marketing and risk insulation.

When the Republican Party saw him take the stage in front of those pulsing, feverpitched crowds of red baseball caps, it saw an opportunity to rebuild a proud but dated brand. It saw a redevelopment plan.

Sure they saw the warning signs. A sham “university” that preyed upon desperate individuals striving to better their lives. An audio tape bragging about using a position of power to sexually harass women.

But isn’t there something in the bible about casting the first stone? And did you see the size of those crowds?

They will soon learn that, like so many of his recent condominium developments, Donald Trump has no equity stake in the GOP. This wasn’t a redevelopment. It was a short-term licensing deal.

And this licensing deal was no different than the rest: Trump stamped his name, offered a brand infusion by stoking the flames of resentment and animosity, then placed others around him in the first-loss position.

The failure of Obamacare repeal? McConnell. Potential tax reform failure? Cohn and Mnuchin. Russia? Let me give you the number for Jeff Sessions.

This has become Trump’s MO: positioning himself and his family to reap the financial rewards of his personal brand, while spreading the investment risk to all those around him. Capturing the upside, offloading the downside.

So it will be with the GOP. If and when things turn south, others will take the fall. Then when the party is no longer convenient, no longer accretive to the Trump brand, he’ll pull those gold letters down and walk away.

And those who chose to look past the warning signs in hopes of a GOP redevelopment will be forced to pick up the pieces of yet another broken Trump licensing deal.

They won’t like what they see.