Will this be the last editorial I write about the Trump dynasty? I hope so. But I’m so outraged by current goings-on that I felt I had to put pen to paper. My biggest, “are you kidding me” moment deals with Jared and Ivanka.
Let’s just review a few facts. When Jared and Ivanka moved to DC, they rented a house in Kalorama for $18,000 a month. Kalorama is the ritziest part of DC and home to many big names–Obama, Clinton, Jeff Bezos, Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith, and Fox News host Chris Wallace, just to name a few. You’ve probably read the stories about how Ivanka and Jared refused to allow their Secret Service protection bathroom privileges in their home (which only had seven bathrooms). So, what to do? Eventually, after neighbors complained about the unsightly port-a-potty in their posh neighborhood, the Secret Service rented a studio nearby for $3,000 a month (now totaling more than $100,000) so that these protectors of “royalty” could access bathroom facilities.
Recently, Jared and Ivanka bought a $31.8 million two-acre piece of property in highly sought-after Indian Creek Island near Miami known as the “Billionaire’s Bunker”. It doesn’t have a house on it yet so expect many more millions to be spent. The property has 200 feet of waterfront, and taxes are approximately $472,000 a year. The island, home to only about 30 residents, (and soon to be the new home of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen) has its own police force and an armed marine patrol circles the island 24 hours a day. While they await the construction of their new mansion, Ivanka and Jared rented an apartment in an exclusive Miami high-rise for $40,000 a month. (One of Trump’s last negotiations before he left the White House was to ensure that all his grown children received six months of Secret Service protection at taxpayer’s expense. Trump will receive this protection for life.)
Where all this money comes from, I have no idea. According to my research, neither Ivanka nor Jared are particularly astute businesspeople. Ivanka’s fashion business which sold mostly shoes, jewelry, handbags and clothing, wasn’t exactly a booming empire. The business started in 2007 and closed shortly after her father took office. Like most Trump businesses, it’s difficult to discern exactly how profitable it was.
Jared Kushner is famous for paying way too much for 666 Fifth Avenue in early 2007—a record-breaking price of $1.8 billion—at that time, the highest price ever paid for a New York office tower. He bought it just before the financial crisis hit and has struggled to cover its debt ever since. There are a host of stories about how a financial company tied to Qatar brokered a deal that bailed him out. Apparently, Jared had spent a lot of time negotiating blockades between Qatar and Saudi Arabia during this time—something about which the State Department was completely unaware.
Why do I find all this conspicuous consumption so upsetting? Because during the time that this “power couple” is spending ungodly sums of money that most people can’t even begin to fathom, Jared Kushner’s real estate company, which owns and manages thousands of apartment buildings, continued its aggressive practices of evictions and debt collection lawsuits in New Jersey and Maryland—even while their tenants were waiting for promised government relief. Both these states had declared states of emergency and both governors called for moratoriums on evictions and court filings. (Netflix recently released a mini documentary called Slumlord Millionaires which documents the abusive practices of Kushner’s real estate companies.)
Call me crazy, but it seems particularly insensitive at a time when so many people are suffering, that the Kushner business would so aggressively work to evict and sue people, particularly when he was “in the room where it happened” in terms of suspending evictions, student loan payments, and more.
In addition to all this outrage, I now read that Ivanka is considering running for Marco Rubio’s senate seat in the 2022 midterm elections. Please say it isn’t so. Rumor has it that Jared is starting a campaign to support his wife’s efforts in this regard. Reports claim that he is bad-mouthing Rubio, saying he is terrible and worthless, and encouraging people to pledge their support to Ivanka.
Let’s be clear. I’m no fan of Marco Rubio. But when does it end? Just like Jared had no clue or expertise on the myriad of assignments Trump gave him as a White House advisor (remember overseeing border wall construction, solving the opioid crisis, ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, addressing the coronavirus crisis), so Ivanka has no relevant experience to serve as a senator of Florida. Like her father, I doubt that she could explain how a bill becomes a law. Nor is she knowledgeable about the many unique challenges that Florida faces. Apparently, Steve Bannon is on this Ivanka-for-Senate bandwagon as well. In his book Fire and Fury, he called her, “dumb as a brick”. I guess getting a pardon changed his thinking—radically.
So why does this “Javanka,” as they are known, phenomenon bother me so much? Every night on the news we see people waiting in line to be tested, to get vaccines, to procure boxes of food. We see selfless volunteers delivering medicines to those who are housebound, working at distribution centers stuffing care bags with groceries, healthcare workers working double and triple shifts to help those who are flooding emergency rooms. In contrast, Ivanka and Jared have this entitlement mentality. They truly act as though they are royalty—the king and queen of America—above the fray with divine rights. No getting their hands dirty dealing with the masses for them.
We’ve all read how much the super wealthy have profited during this pandemic. Some estimates claim that the wealthiest Americans have increased their wealth by almost 40 percent. In contrast, more than 429,000 people have died from the virus, more than 22 million people have lost their jobs, more than 100,000 small businesses have closed forever.
It would have been nice to have just a small amount of empathy, compassion or aid from this royal duo. But so far, that is not the case. Just for comparison’s sake, let’s contrast this “first daughter’s” focus with Dr. Jill Biden’s first week as first lady. So far, she has met with the governors’ spouses over Zoom, videotaped a message to the American Library Association’s midwinter virtual conference, visited the Whitman-Walker Health Clinic, and brought treats and thanked many national guard workers for their service and protection.
What a difference an administration makes! In my mind, it’s a welcome one.
Maria Grant was principal-in-charge of Deloitte’s Federal Human Capital practice. Since her retirement, she has focused on writing, reading, piano, travel, nature, and gardening.