President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced an exhaustive list of private industry executives that will form what he’s calling the “Great Economic Revival Industry Groups,” to advise the administration on its plans to “re-open” the economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Of the 202 members named by the White House, at least 27 reportedly donated to the president’s re-election campaign or political action committees (PACs).
Three members of the Revival task force – Stephen Schwarzman, Geoff Palmer, and Warren Stephens – each donated at least a million dollars to “America First,” the president’s official super PAC.
Stephens, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of the privately held Arkansas-based investment bank Stephens Inc., donated $1,000,000 to the president’s campaign. The leaked Paradise Papers revealed that Stephens held a 40-percent stake in payday lender Integrity Advance, which was accused by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau of hiding the scale of fees borrowers would face if they failed to make a loan payment on-time, with some consumers facing 255-percent interest rates. Notably, the Guardian reported that Stephens was at one time a “major backer of the Stop Trump movement,” an effort to stop then-candidate Trump from becoming the Republican Party nominee.
The CFPB also found that the company “routinely used multiple payment authorizations to continue debiting consumers’ accounts using remotely created checks, even after consumers revoked authorization for the company to access their accounts using the automated clearing house (ACH) network.”
Since taking office, Trump has virtually dismantled the CFPB.
Palmer, a Los Angeles real estate developer has been a staunch supporter of the president since he first announced he was running in the 2016 election, donated $2 million to America First.
A 2016 investigative report by Hedge Clippers, a watchdog group that investigates hedge fund managers and other wealthy financiers, revealed that Palmer made millions by flouting government regulations in his quest against affordable housing laws. Unlike Stephens, Palmer has long backed Trump.
Schwarzman is the chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest corporate residential landlords. Last year, the United Nations accused Blackstone of being a predominant cause of the global housing crisis by “wreaking havoc” in communities and exploiting tenants by inflating rents and imposing heavy-handed fees.
In a letter to the U.S. government, the U.N. claimed that “a Blackstone subsidiary in the US, Invitation Homes, imposes charges for minor maintenance repairs and tasks such as removing insect infestations” and “imposes late rental payments of $100, even if they are just one minute late, or due to an error in Invitation Homes’ computer system.”
[image via Joe Raedle_Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]