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My unlikely ramble into national politics

A reflection on my unlikely journey from neighborhood flood response to construction techniques to national politics.

Before 2016 I was not personally active in politics. Yet as a small business owner I financially supported a number of candidates in both parties, typically in small dollar amounts from $250 to $500 per campaign over several decades. I left a Wall Street firm and set up my small business practice in early 1987. I was a registered Republican but often critical of government policies no matter who was in power. Trump was a Democrat back then and was vocally critical, as best I remember, in the local business community about “dumb” Republican voters.

My modest but consistent financial support was given to those in both parties who attempted to address corruption in local South Jersey government (and, to a lesser extent, in southeast PA). I was willing to support any apparently honest person who wanted to get involved in government to try to make a difference. I supported Republicans Chris Christie early in his career and Frank LoBiondo. I’ve spoken with and supported (and feel supported by) both of our current Senators Menendez and Booker. My community support efforts triggered the New Jersey legislature to issue Joint Legislative Commendations on two occasions – once initiated by a Democrat in 2013 and once by a Republican in 2015. So I think that I have a proven record as a nonpartisan businessman. This blurry old photograph is all I have of the last award.

My first personal activism focused on flooding and building industry response in my Ocean City, New Jersey neighborhood in the 1990s. This led to an invitation to get involved at Money Island in Cumberland County. The story unwound from there, leading to death threats and an eventual assassination attempt in 2006 instigated by a government official over my message of necessary flood response. Incredible, even today!

My most recent financial and personal support was given to Democrat Jeff Van Drew. I also supported local government candidates in both parties this past election cycle. I now view all of these past support efforts as entirely failed and the money wasted. We haven’t made forward progress; we are clearly worse off than ever before. (The recent book “The Drowning of Money Island” touches on my story of personal experiences with New Jersey government fraud and incompetence).

Back in the 1990s my accounting and financial services practice focused on serving small business contractors in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region. I had offices in Doylestown PA and Ocean City NJ. We had suffered a painful construction industry downturn in the late 1980s and early 1990s so contractors were eager to travel outside their normal territory and work for Trump in Atlantic City. I was the accountant for some of the small business contractors ripped off by Trump then. I talked to Trump’s accountants by phone and at least twice in person in attempt to work out payment solutions. It wasn’t his bankruptcy that irked us. It was that he lied to us so many times, again and again, to prove himself a slime ball. He continued to lie to us even after the bankruptcies to get what he wanted. I only spoke with Trump directly on two occasions. In both times it was superficial conversation, not substantive business negotiations. But he gave me the clear impression of being a self-absorbed con man. My activism in the contracting industry in representing and warning other small business contractors is one of the factors that caused the Bucks Mont chapter of the National Association of Remodelers (NARI) members to elect me as president in 1998. I represented them as as a national board member at a time when Trump’s disrepute were widely known by contracting industry leaders. Back then, I thought that our local contractors almost all knew of Trump’s crimes and universally despised him as a fraudster. I was also personally impacted: a young girl playmate of my children in our Ocean City neighborhood lost their family home and her parents eventually divorced over stress caused by Trump’s failure to pay even years later (the late 1990s). He was still scamming contractors years after his bankruptcies. They took care of his limousines and lost their business when he lied to them repeatedly and then walked away from his large bills. That’s why I was so surprised in 2016 when so many in a younger generation seemed to have forgotten his crime spree in Atlantic City. Plain and simple: I know Trump is a self-absorbed con man and serial liar who shows no sense of morality. I’m still shocked that others don’t see that and apparently do not have the ability to avoid becoming yet another victim of this lifelong fraudster.

I felt betrayed by the contractor community in 2016 to the point where I stopped working for most of these former clients. I was criticized by my clients solely for my history of giving accurate and honest testimony against Trump. It hit me hard emotionally after devoting a career supporting these clients. It was painful to give up my ‘power base’ in the contracting industry but I felt that it was an ethical necessity.

Since then, I have become active in supporting candidates who are focused on getting Trump and his ilk out of our lives. I have worked as campaign treasurer and accountant to individuals and organizations committed to this reform effort. Now I am supporting local candidate Frederick John LaVergne as his campaign treasurer because I know that he can make a difference.

This article published in the Atlantic City Press yesterday triggered me to write this blog post:

https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/columnists/mike-kelly/2020/01/24/donald-trump-still-owes-money-to-contractors-who-built-taj-mahal-atlantic-city/4547037002/

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