Donald Trump has ticked off a whole lot of different groups during his outspoken and unconventional run for the presidency. Few small business owners are among them.
Back during the primaries when he was an unlikely challenger to a slew of other more mainstream Republican candidates, Trump managed to attract the support of a whopping 41 percent of small business owners despite the crowded field. Even after a year of gaffes and controversy, more recent polls suggest small business owners remain among Trump's most stalwart supporters.
But there are some interesting and very vocal exceptions -- the many small business owners Donald Trump has stiffed in his long career as a real estate tycoon.
Recently several media outlets have dug up a handful of business owners with worrying tales to tell of Trump's bullying, unfairness, and failure to pay. And while their numbers aren't huge, there are enough of them to suggest a pattern of behavior that raises questions about whether pre-politics Trump was much of a friend to small business in practice. Here are a few of their stories:
The owner of a Las Vegas-based drapery business, Walters was contracted to supply Trump's hotel in the city. Trump's company, however, demanded Walters provide additional work beyond the original contract. When Walters resisted, refusing to hand over some fabric that was in dispute, "sheriff's deputies burst into his factory after Trump Ruffin sued him. Trucks took the fabric away," the WSJ's Alexandra Berzon reports.
Walters claims he never had similar disputes in the past and an investigation of local court records backs him up. The final outcome? Under threat of prolonged litigation Walters settled for $380,000 less than he says he was owed.
In 1988 Jenkins was the hardworking entrepreneur who was was thrilled to secure a large contract to install toilet partitions in Trump's Atlantic City casino. Unfortunately for Jenkins, the casino filed for bankruptcy just two years after opening. "After years of fighting through bankruptcy court, the Jenkins ended up with just 30 cents on the dollar. Their company was owed $231,000, according to the bankruptcy claim filed in the case. The Jenkins family received $70,000," reports CNN (follow the link for a video segment on the story).
Edward J. Friel
Friel was another small business owner initially thrilled by the prospect of supplying Trump's first Atlantic City casino with cabinets for slot machines. But after the job was both completed and approved, Friel tells CNN, Trump refused to make the final payment, meaning Friel made no profit on the deal.
What's more, CNN spoke to Friel's son, who made further accusations. He "believes Trump used his enormous influence to block his father's company from working on any future Atlantic City projects," says the article. Friel eventually had to file for bankruptcy due to his troubles with Trump.
Judith and Nicolas Jacobson
Now divorced, the Jacobsons were a married couple who previously owned a chandelier business in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 2004, Trump ordered three fixtures worth $34,000 for his Mar-a-Lago resort from them, but then refused to pay in full, saying the Jacobsons' work was shoddy, WSJ reports. They denied this claim but facing endless legal wrangling, the couple settled.
"A review of Palm Beach County court records showed no other payment disputes involving Classic Chandeliers. The shop later closed. Mr. Jacobson died in 2015," notes the WSJ.
Trump defends his history of payment disputes as simply the expected cost of being a tough negotiator in a cutthroat business. The WSJ article, in particular, offers Trump's camp ample space to respond. They strongly defend the tactics as hard but fair (and some fellow businesspeople might agree), but the paper notes that they "stood out as particularly aggressive in the industry and in the broader business world."
Will Trump's treatment of contractors affect whether or not you decide to vote for him?