The Trump Files: The Easiest 13 Cents He Ever Made

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on August 1, 2016.

In its short-lived existence, Spy magazine had a lot of fun with Donald Trump. The New York-based monthly is best known for making fun of the size of Trump’s fingers, but its deepest cut may have come as part of a 1990 prank.

Spy correspondent Julius Lowenthal wanted to know just how cheap some of the city’s richest figures were. So he set up a company, called the National Refund Clearinghouse, and sent letters with checks for $1.11 enclosed, “for services that you were overcharged for.” The letters went out to 58 “well-known, well-heeled Americans,” 26 of whom promptly cashed them. Curious as to how low they might go, Lowenthal sent those 26 “nabobs” a second refund check, for $0.64. This time, 13 people cashed them.

Finally, he sent those 13 respondents a check for $0.13. This time, only two people cashed the check. One was an arms dealer. The other was Donald Trump, whom the magazine identified as a “demibillionaire casino operator and adulturer.”

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate