[WANDERING INQUISITIVE MUSIC PLAYS]
ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Sean Parker, a founder of Facebook and Napster, realized not too long ago he had more money than he knew what to do with.
SEAN PARKER: When you're a founder of Facebook and you own a lot of stock with zero basis, you have a lot of capital gains.
BERNSTEIN: This is Parker, speaking in May at a forum in Newark, New Jersey. He’s talking about the profits he made off his early investment in Facebook — his capital gains.
PARKER: And so you spend a lot of time thinking about capital gains, which is kind of where this came from, as it is the amount of time that I never thought I would spend thinking about capital gains. And then I started realizing, “Wait a second! There's — there’s trillions of dollars.”
BERNSTEIN: He realized something else. Not too many venture capitalists were investing outside of places like Silicon Valley and New York and Boston and Austin, Texas. So Parker came up with an idea to encourage investment in low-income communities by giving investors a huge break on their capital gains taxes.
PARKER: We can cleverly use, you know, tax policy, along with capitalism, to help people.
BERNSTEIN: It's sort of two-for-one: Doing good, by doing well. The thinking is, when money comes to poor communities, it stimulates the economy, creates jobs, lifts them up.
In December 2017 Parker’s idea became part of President Trump’s tax law: the President’s signature legislative achievement. Overall, the bill cut taxes, especially for the wealthy. But this one part was supposed to help the poor: Opportunity Zones.
[MUSIC CHANGES TO BE MORE BASS-DRIVEN]
BERNSTEIN: Here’s how it works. If you have a big profit from an investment, you can avoid paying taxes right away by having it invested in a low-income area. If you keep the money invested for seven years, you’ll get a big tax break. If you keep the money invested for ten years, you won’t have to pay any taxes on new profit from your investment.
The idea has some bipartisan support.
SENATOR CORY BOOKER: It's about time that an innovative idea like this came out of Washington that gives local leaders the chance to try new things.
BERNSTEIN: This is New Jersey Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker. He’s running for President. He was at the forum in Newark, too.
SENATOR BOOKER: I know there will be local leaders and communities like mine that will dazzle us with what they get accomplished if we just give them one or two tools to make a difference.
[A BEAT OF MUSIC, A SCENE CHANGE]
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, thank you very much, everybody. We have a great group of business leaders, tremendous leaders … [FADES UNDER]
BERNSTEIN: Last year, President Trump invited a group of mostly African-American leaders for a photo opportunity at the White House. His daughter was there, too.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Ivanka, would you like to say something? You’ve been pushing this very hard. [FADES UNDER]
BERNSTEIN: Ivanka Trump lobbied early on for the tax bill, and specifically for Opportunity Zones.
IVANKA TRUMP: [OVER CAMERAS] And the fact that this was integrated into the tax bill, which is already proving to be so beneficial for people all over this country, is just another element as we start to rebuild these distressed communities.
[TRUMP, INC. MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: Whether distressed communities will benefit — and by how much — is not clear. The law has no specific requirements for how investments are spent. What is clear? Opportunity Zones have a potentially very large benefit for the wealthy in general, and for real estate developers in particular, including Ivanka Trump’s husband’s family business, the Kushner Companies.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We’ve lowered the capital gains tax for long-term investment in Opportunity Zones all the way down to a very big, fat, beautiful number of zero. [APPLAUSE]
BERNSTEIN: Hello, and welcome to Trump, Inc., a podcast from WNYC and ProPublica about the business of Trump. I’m Andrea Bernstein. Today on the show: Opportunity Zones.
Although Parker didn’t say so, the concept behind Opportunity Zones is not new. The idea of getting tax breaks for investing in economically distressed areas has a long history.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Enterprise zones …
BERNSTEIN: They called them “enterprise zones” under President Reagan —
PRESIDENT REAGAN: … economically crippled communities …
BERNSTEIN: — and “Empowerment Zones” under President Clinton.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: … empowerment zones. They’re helping people to find jobs, to start businesses.
BERNSTEIN: The George W. Bush administration had its own program for these kinds of tax breaks.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: … attract new business and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America. [APPLAUSE]
BERNSTEIN: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was passed with no hearings and no debate. The Opportunity Zones Part was on page 130. It defines the zones broadly: there are about 8,700 of them. There’s no requirement that a project specifically help a community. The law says you can get a break for any investment you do in a zone: luxury housing developments, resorts, corporate headquarters.
Analysts say the law actually incentivizes investments in communities that are already gentrifying — those are the ones that promise the highest returns. Investment advisors have already drawn up lists of these neighborhoods.
Later on the show, I’ll be visiting an Opportunity Zone in Long Branch, New Jersey. It’s a beach town where the Kushner family is already in high-end real estate.
The Kushner Companies did not answer questions for this story.
The White House said both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump followed the guidance they sought and received from the White House Counsel’s Office while consulting with the Office of Government Ethics on this issue to insure there are no conflicts of interest.
[MUSIC RAMPS UP]
BERNSTEIN: But before we talk about the White House, we’re going look to at what happens when — instead of the system working — someone works the system.
Anytime you offer investors financial incentives for investing in blighted areas, some people will respond by pushing politicians to designate healthy areas as blighted. Donald Trump once sued and won a tax break from New York City saying the Fifth Avenue site, where Trump Tower was constructed, was “underutilized.”
That’s the kind of thing we found with an Opportunity Zone in Baltimore. It never should have qualified for the program. It got picked after a mistake by the U.S. Treasury Department and a push by one of Maryland’s richest men. Trump, Inc. Senior Producer Meg Cramer takes the story from here.
[DRIVING MUSIC PLAYS]
MEG CRAMER: When Kevin Plank speaks publicly about his company, Under Armour, he often tells the same origin story about starting small.
KEVIN PLANK: You know, I didn’t start the company to say, “How do I build a global sports brand?”
CRAMER: Picture a sporty Alec Baldwin. Barrel-chested, grey hair at his temples. Sometimes wearing a tight-fitting Under Armour quarter-zip up on stage.
PLANK: … and said, “Wow, nobody’s ever addressed these soaking wet short-sleeve cotton T-shirts that we wear under our — our pads and our uniforms.”
CRAMER: Plank describes himself as someone who was a little guy up against the big guys: Nike and Adidas.
PLANK: Anyone smart I talked to said, "Are you crazy? You’re going to go against these behemoths, the guys out west and the guys in Germany?” The fact is, I didn’t care. All I knew is I was going to make the world’s greatest T-shirt. And it started out … [FADES UNDER]
CRAMER: Plank is no longer the little guy. He’s a billionaire. And his business interests in Baltimore — where Under Armour is headquartered — are growing.
JEFF ERNSTHAUSEN: He’s a very prominent figure in Baltimore because of his wealth, because his company is headquartered there. He's a very well-known figure in the city.
CRAMER: Jeff Ernsthausen is a data reporter for ProPublica. He’s based in Baltimore.
ERNSTHAUSEN: So, since 2012, Kevin Plank has been buying up property along the water in South Baltimore. He and his company ultimately spent over $100 million acquiring parcels of land on this largely vacant peninsula south of I-95.
CRAMER: Plank and a group of developers announced their plans for this land in 2016 — a $5.5 billion dollar real estate project along Baltimore’s waterfront, anchored by a new world headquarters for Under Armour — Port Covington.
[“WE WILL BUILD IT” AD PLAYS]
PERSON 1: We will build it.
PERSON 2: Together.
PERSON 3: Port Covington
PERSON 4: And when we build it —
PERSON 5: It will be ours. [FADES UNDER]
CRAMER: There are plans for retail and office space, a hotel, bike paths, condos.
ERNSTHAUSEN: It's often described as “a city within a city.”
[BACK TO THE AD]
PERSON 6: Good jobs.
PERSON 7: Good jobs.
[AWAY FROM THE AD]
ERNSTHAUSEN: They're showing a new skyline, essentially, rising south of the highway that's not part of the Baltimore skyline currently. And it's going to be, as I think Plank put it, “A great place to live, work, and play.”
CRAMER: The developers made a deal with the city — promising jobs and new park space — to get a $660 million public financing package to pay for infrastructure costs. But in 2017, Under Armour’s growth stalled, and so did the project.
[THE AUDIO FROM THE AD WINDS DOWN]
CRAMER: After the law that created Opportunity Zones passed, Plank and his partners saw a new way to attract investors.
[BASS-DRIVEN MUSIC PLAYS]
CRAMER: They began to navigate the complex process of getting this new tax break. Under the law, the Treasury Department first puts together a list of qualifying census tracts, their “poor areas.” Then, each states’ governor chooses from among those tracts. In Baltimore, that’s Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan.
ERNSTHAUSEN: Early in 2018, after the law passes, lobbyists for the Port Covington developers were in touch with the governor's office about setting up a meeting. That meeting ends up being scheduled for February 5th.
CRAMER: Jeff and his ProPublica colleague Justin Elliott obtained emails related to this meeting. There were a number of things the developers wanted to talk about. They sent out an agenda.
ERNSTHAUSEN: And on the agenda for that meeting is Opportunity Zones.
CRAMER: But, the developers had a problem. Port Covington isn’t in a poor census tract. The median family income in the tract is much, much higher than the city’s. The poverty rate is much lower.
ERNSTHAUSEN: We filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for any notes related to this meeting once we found out about it, and we did get back one email that was sent from a deputy chief of staff to himself.
CRAMER: He sent it on a Friday evening, ahead of the meeting with the Port Covington team.
ERNSTHAUSEN: It resembles a sort of note you might send to yourself after a phone call, kind of noting the essentials of the program. And the last line in it starts with “Port Covington does not qualify.”
CRAMER: “Port Covington does not qualify.”
The following Monday, the developers and their lobbyists meet with the governor’s staff. During the meeting, they ask about getting the Opportunity Zone designation. Then, the developers catch a lucky break.
ERNSTHAUSEN: Three weeks later, Treasury releases their final list of census tracts that can be eligible for the program. And — lo and behold — Port Covington is on there as a low-income community.
CRAMER: “A low-income community.”
Somehow, the tract makes it through the Treasury department’s selection process — more about that in a minute — but it’s not an Opportunity Zone yet, because not all eligible tracts can be selected. The governor gets to make the final call.
ERNSTHAUSEN: So around the time when Plank's lobbyists are setting up this meeting with the governor's office, Baltimore's economic developers and city planners are putting together their own list of which census tracts they would like to have included in the program.
CRAMER: They suggested 41 low-income neighborhoods. Port Covington was not on that list. Remember, by this time, lobbyists have already paid a visit to Governor Hogan’s office.
The Governor took the city’s suggestions and approved almost all of them, with a few changes.
He said no to three of the city’s 41 low-income neighborhoods. He added four others — including Port Covington, making it an Opportunity Zone.
[A BEAT FOR MUSIC, THEN SILENCE]
CRAMER: An official in the governor’s office said, “The success of that project is really going to go a long way to providing benefits for the whole city of Baltimore,” and, “The governor is a huge supporter of the development.”
A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which was involved in the selection process, said that, because of the time-limits built into the program, the state “… did purposefully select census tracts where projects were beginning to increase the odds of attracting additional private sector investment to Maryland's Opportunity Zones in the near term.”
[MORE BASS-DRIVEN MUSIC PLAYS]
CRAMER: The Opportunity Zone program was designed to attract new investments in poor areas that qualify because they have the greatest need.
Kevin Plank’s Port Covington project is not a new investment. And it is not in a poor census tract. It doesn’t meet the Treasury Department’s qualifications. And yet, it ended up on Treasury’s list of qualified tracts.
ERNSTHAUSEN: So we have no evidence that the Port Covington developers tried to influence Treasury's selection process. It happened because Treasury made a mistake.
CRAMER: It’s kind of like that Monopoly card, “Bank error in your favor.”
[A MUSIC FLOURISH, THEN OUT]
CRAMER: To understand this error, we have to talk about a kind of obscure provision in the tax law that has to do with a program called Empowerment Zones, the ones set up under President Clinton.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: … the kind of comprehensive strategy for the future embodied in Empowerment Zones and enterprise communities.
CRAMER: Empowerment Zones were part of a ‘90s-era redevelopment initiative aimed at low-income communities.
Trump’s Treasury Department decided that if a low-population census tract overlapped with an Empowerment Zone, that whole tract could qualify to be an Opportunity Zone. That's what happened with Port Covington.
Thing is, Treasury didn’t specify how much overlap there needed to be in order to qualify a neighboring area.
ERNSTHAUSEN: So there’s the highway over there.
CRAMER: In this case, the overlap was very small. Jeff took me to see it.
CRAMER: How many hours do you think you’ve spent looking at this map?
ERNSTHAUSEN: Um …
CRAMER: To get there, we get on Interstate 395, going south.
ERNSTHAUSEN: I wish I could begin to describe how much time I’ve spent staring at this area of land.
[ROCK-Y MUSIC PLAYS]
CRAMER: For one brief moment this highway passes over a small parking lot owned by Maryland’s Transportation Authority.
ERNSTHAUSEN: Yeah. I think we’re just entering overlap territory right now.
CRAMER: One small slice of this parking lot contains almost the whole overlap between the Empowerment Zone and the Port Covington census tract. It’s what qualifies the area for big tax breaks.
ERNSTHAUSEN: And I think we’re out of it.
CRAMER: That was fast.
ERNSTHAUSEN: Yeah! It’s not a [PAUSE FOR EFFECT] terribly long stretch.
CRAMER: Jeff sent the map files he got from Treasury over to David Van Riper, who’s the Director of Spatial Analysis at the Minnesota Population Center.
CRAMER: Oh! Hi, Dave!
DAVID VAN RIPER: Hi! How are you guys?
CRAMER: David took a look at the overlap.
VAN RIPER: I — No, I don't think it's real. I'm going to zoom in a little bit more. So the area of overlap between those two data sets. That’s essentially one one-thousandth of a square mile.
CRAMER: This one one-thousandth of a square mile allowed the entire Port Covington tract — of which about 40% is owned by Kevin Plank — to qualify for a tax break aimed at poor communities.
Here’s what happened: When the U.S. Treasury Department went looking for overlaps, they referenced two different maps. But the lines on those maps didn’t quite match.
VAN RIPER: And what can happen then is you get these small slivers, or these small overlaps.
CRAMER: Treasury didn’t correct for these accidental slivers, so when it looked for any overlaps at all, it pulled in Port Covington as a qualified tract. Jeff found a handful of other errors like this across the country.
ERNSTHAUSEN: So we went back to Treasury and we said, “Hey, look! This appears to be a deeply flawed methodology that you used, and it appears to have qualified this tract in Baltimore that shouldn't be qualified for the program.” And they reiterated they made a technical decision and declined to provide any further comment.
CRAMER: They didn't say that it was a mistake.
CRAMER: But it was a mistake.
[A MOMENT FOR MUSIC]
ERNSTHAUSEN: So, it looks like they were a combination of lucky and that this — this error was made in their favor, allowing them in via the mapping issue. But then they also worked the referee, and, in this case, the referee was the governor of Maryland.
The consequence is that, you know, who knows how much of a $5.5 billion development is going to be eligible for millions of dollars worth of tax breaks that were intended for low-income communities. And it also means that one low-income community was not included, while this one was able to be included.
CRAMER: We reached out to Under Armour. They sent us to one of Kevin Plank’s development partners. In a statement, he defended the Opportunity Zone designation, saying it will “directly benefit all of the surrounding communities for decades to come.”
[A BEAT, THEN SILENCE]
BERNSTEIN: Even when there is no evidence of working the referee, no particular influence brought to bear, and no apparent mistakes, the way the Opportunity Zone program is designed, wealthy real estate families are going to benefit.
NEWS ANCHOR 1: Joining us right now from the White House is the senior advisor to the President, who also happens to be her father. Ivanka, good morning.
NEWS ANCHOR 2: Good morning to you!
BERNSTEIN: We’ll be right back.
NEWS ANCHOR 2: Good morning to you! Congratulations!
IVANKA TRUMP: [SPEAKING OVER NEWS ANCHOR 1] Thank you, thank you! What a day to be here to celebrate.
NEWS ANCHOR 1: No kidding! And your — your name, actually, has been linked to this for a while.
BERNSTEIN: When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 hung in the balance, Ivanka Trump lobbied for it.
IVANKA TRUMP: Tax reform is an enormous vehicle to create the kind of growth that will lend itself to prosperity for — for all Americans.
[INVESTIGATIVE MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: There’s no evidence Ivanka Trump lobbied for Opportunity Zones specifically to help her husband’s family business. But [A LONG PAUSE] according to their financial disclosures, Jared and Ivanka have as much as a $50 million stake in a real estate investment platform called Cadre. Jared and his brother Josh Kushner are co-founders. In December, Cadre said it was creating a major Opportunity Zone fund. According to the Associated Press, Cadre said it would be avoiding the poorest areas, because of, quote, “unfavorable growth prospects.”
On the Opportunity Zone part of its website, Cadre says investors can potentially double their profits compared to a typical investment fund.
Cadre didn’t answer our questions about how their fund is performing and whether it’s taken steps to avoid conflicts.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have divested from some parts of their family business. But even in those cases, Ivanka divested to her brother-in-law, Josh Kushner, and her sister-in-law, Nicole Kushner-Meyer, who works in the family real estate business.
[THE MUSIC CHANGES TONE]
BERNSTEIN: The Kushner Companies own properties that are eligible for Opportunity Zone investments in four states. WNYC reporter Anjali Kamat and I went to see one.
[THE SOUND OF AN ANNOUNCEMENT OVER A TRAIN LOUDSPEAKER]
BERNSTEIN: We took New Jersey transit.
[THE ANNOUNCEMENT CONTINUES]
BERNSTEIN: Anjali has been reporting on Opportunity Zones in New York and New Jersey.
ANJALI KAMAT: Long Branch was selected to be an Opportunity Zone by Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat. His spokesperson says Long Branch was chosen because of its relatively high unemployment and poverty rates.
BERNSTEIN: Alright. So, I think after the tracts … [FADES UNDER]
KAMAT: The Kushners have been developing here for years. They have already-built property, property under construction, and empty lots waiting to be developed.
KAMAT: … the closer you get to the water … [FADES UNDER]
BERNSTEIN: We get off the train and walk towards the beach. There’s a hulking concrete structure underway.
BERNSTEIN: How long have you been working on this property?
CONSTRUCTION WORKER 1: How long have I? About a year. The project has been going on about a year and a half.
KAMAT: It’s going to be luxury condos. Kushner was an early partner on this project.
CONSTRUCTION WORKER 2: We had our last pour party last week, too.
KAMAT: Your last pour party?
CONSTRUCTION WORKER 2: Yeah, last pour of concrete.
KAMAT: Oh! You have a party for that, for real?
CONSTRUCTION WORKER 2: Absolutely. They were pouring concrete for a year and a half.
CONSTRUCTION WORKER 2: That’s a long time of pouring concrete.
[THE SOUNDS OF CONSTRUCTION]
BERNSTEIN: So, even before the law was passed, there was a lot of new construction in Long Branch.
KAMAT: I mean, everywhere you look, there’s construction.
BERNSTEIN: Oh, yeah, look! There’s the Wave Resort.
BERNSTEIN: Right across the street, there’s a brand new Kushner luxury hotel, the Wave Resort. Nicole Kushner-Meyer cut a ribbon here just before Memorial Day.
NICOLE KUSHNER-MEYER: With the opening of the Wave Resort, the community will have a place to celebrate …
KAMAT: This resort is another example of how even before the law, the area was on the upswing.
KAMAT: It doesn’t look very distressed.
BERNSTEIN: In theory, under the law, these developments are not eligible for Opportunity Zone investments, because they were underway when the law passed. Right on the water, there’s a plot of land that is eligible. The Kushners own it.
KAMAT: And they just bought the lot across the street. Flattened it. It’s now a parking lot.
BERNSTEIN: Oh, yeah. Look! Let's take a picture of that.
BERNSTEIN: Tax records show that all through the zone, the Kushner Companies own acres of land. And under the Opportunity Zone law, it could be easier for them to get financing for their unbuilt lots, because their investors can get the tax break.
KAMAT: The zone is pretty large. And we want to see the whole thing. We need some wheels.
BERNSTEIN AND KAMAT: [SIMULTANEOUSLY] Hi.
KAMAT: We wanted to rent a couple of bikes for about an hour or so.
BERNSTEIN: I put my recorder in the bike basket.
BERNSTEIN: This Opportunity Zone map is not a bicycle map.
KAMAT: We pass a very big empty lot at the edge of the Opportunity Zone.
[THE SOUND OF WIND AND PASSING CARS]
BERNSTEIN: So everything around — Oop! Here comes a car! — everything around it looks not fancy. The sidewalks are broken. The grass is scraggly and there's some gravel. Looks like there was once parking area, but it's kind of decaying.
BERNSTEIN: Later, we find out who owns this lot: Long Branch Partners, Limited Liability Company. It’s a Kushner LLC. This lot, too, could be eligible for a tax savings investment.
[SLOW, DRAWN-OUT MUSIC PLAYS]
KAMAT: The law doesn’t require investors to fund projects that directly meet the basic needs of communities, like affordable housing or a jobs-training center. Those things could be built here on this lot. But, the way the law is written, it could end up another luxury development.
BERNSTEIN: Defenders of Opportunity Zones say even luxury housing produces jobs, and generates economic activity. We called a specialist to ask about that.
MICHELLE LAYSER: My name is Michelle Layser, and I'm an assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. So I study how tax incentives are used to drive investment into poor areas.
BERNSTEIN: Layser says developments like the ones we saw in Long Branch do create economic activity, and might create jobs.
LAYSER: But to the extent that new jobs are created, there is very little evidence that those jobs are filled by local residents.
BERNSTEIN: She says one study of these kind of tax breaks showed one in eight jobs went to local residents.
LAYSER: So, you know, if you're comfortable with those numbers, yeah, sure, that's very -- that's definitely a benefit to that one in eight.
BERNSTEIN: Layser says the Opportunity Zone program is much larger than past programs like it, which means there’s a huge potential cost to taxpayers. She says the benefits are unclear.
LAYSER: The law simply requires that opportunity funds hold a substantial number of assets that are just property located in Opportunity Zones. Um, but that's the only real requirement. And so that leaves some really big questions about, okay, “So, what is this property?” “What kind of investments are going to be made?” “How is that going to impact communities?”
BERNSTEIN: The investments, Layser says, have been mostly in real estate, because investing in a piece of property is one of the simplest ways to get the benefits. According to an analysis by Pew, there are only a handful of opportunity funds focused on running businesses. Funds focused on real estate have already raised billions. Because of the way the law is written, real estate investment produces more certain outcomes.
Among the projects applying for benefits: luxury condos, hotels, a yoga studio, a climbing wall.
LAYSER: Yeah. So, I think the real question is about priorities, right? So where are you meeting people's immediate needs? Or are you meeting secondary needs?
BERNSTEIN: Layser says there’s an important difference between this law and the ones that preceded it, like the Empowerment Zone law. Those laws required that investments created jobs in poor communities.
LAYSER: In the Opportunity Zones context there is nothing that parallels requirements like that. The sole requirement is an opportunity fund self-certify with the IRS as meeting the asset requirements, and then they own a substantial amount of property in the Opportunity Zones and that's it. There's no requirement, uh, that they have any particular mission as an organization.
BERNSTEIN: It sounds like the law incentivizes doing well more than doing good.
LAYSER: I believe so, yeah.
[THE SOUNDS OF WATER ON A BEACH]
BERNSTEIN: When we were in Long Branch, Anjali and I made one last stop, a mile or so OUTSIDE the Opportunity Zone, a little to the south. It’s a big new home: tan stucco with cupolas and balconies ringed with wrought iron, and a very large and forbidding wall separating it from the beach. It’s the Kushner family beach home.
KAMAT: We're just outside the Opportunity Zones in which a large chunk of new development that's coming up is being done by a company owned by the Kushner family.
BERNSTEIN: The President’s son-in-law.
[BEACH SOUNDS OUT]
BERNSTEIN: It’s possible the Kushner family won’t use any Opportunity Zone investments in Long Branch, or in Jersey City, New Jersey, or Brooklyn, or in any of the four states where it has unbuilt lots.
Even if that were to be the case, the family could still benefit, because if the real estate values go up because of investments, their land values go up too.
The Kushners are not unique. The tax break can benefit anyone who has capital gains, and anyone who develops real estate. And though the law has a potential cost of billions of dollars to taxpayers, there are no public reporting requirements on how it’s being spent, who gets the benefits, or how big a break they’re getting.
That’s how the law was written.
[CREDITS MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: Trump, Inc. is an open investigation of the Trump family business. Send us your tips at tips@TrumpIncPodcast.org. We also have secure methods to communicate. Find out how at TrumpIncPodcast.org. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter.
Trump, Inc. is produced by Meg Cramer. Associate producer, Katherine Sullivan. The editors this episode were Jesse Eisinger, Charlie Herman, Eric Umansky, and Nick Varchaver. Special thanks to Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott of ProPublica and Anjali Kamat of WNYC. The technical director is Bill Moss. Jim Schachter is the Vice President of WNYC News, and Steve Engelberg is the Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica.
The original music is by Hannis Brown.
BERNSTEIN: [ON TAPE] I feel a raindrop, so I feel like we should get out of here.