The Trump Files: The Easiest 13 Cents He Ever Made

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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.”

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Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

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