Netflix has just released the six episodes of the second season of its excellent Dirty Money series that looks at all the corruption that is around. It focuses on the wealthy and big businesses that are corrupt and get rich at the expense of poor and vulnerable people. Back in 2019, I wrote about one episode in the first series that looked at the corrupt practices of the giant bank HSBC that was enabling the laundering of drug cartel money. In the second series they focus on Wells Fargo bank, the incredibly corrupt prime minister of Malaysia, ‘dirty gold’ that is produced using illegal mining and environmental destruction, abuse and exploitation of the elderly, and companies that pollute the environments of small towns. They are truly the scum of the Earth.
And right up there amongst them is Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump. In the third episode of this new series titled Slumlord Millionaire, they look at the real estate empire of Kushner and his father Charles Kushner. I wrote about Jared Kushner’s despicable practices back in 2017 when they were exposed by Alec MacGillis of ProPublica but watching this show made me livid all over again. This series will renew interest in their evil practices. There have been news articles here and here and I hope it results in more vigorous action taken against him and his business.
One of the things that he would do is buy what are called rent-stabilized apartment buildings in New York City. These buildings offer some protection for tenants by not allowing unreasonable rent increases and giving the residents the right to renew their leases. But Kushner’s company would buy these buildings and then make life hell for the tenants by not doing repairs even when ceilings collapsed and water poured in through them and creating construction noses 24/7, all in an effort to force them to move out so that Kushner could convert them to units where he could charge four times the rent.
One question is how Kushner could get away with all his abuses. The answer is simple. The Kushner family is very well connected. They have long been big donors to people like the city’s mayor Bill de Blasio, the state’s governor Andrew Cuomo, and the Democratic party. The Kushners are also close family friends with powerful people like the Clintons and racist apartheid enforcer, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It took a US attorney attorney in New Jersey Chris Christie to put the father in jail in 2005 for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and witness tampering. The elder Kushner had illegally given political contributions in the names of other people including his sister. In order to prevent her from testifying against him, he hired a sex worker to compromise her husband and used the recordings of their tryst to blackmail his own sister into staying silent. You know, he’s just a wonderful family man.
In his properties in Baltimore, Jared Kushner would hit his tenants with late fees even if they were a day late and then use that to keep jacking up the amounts they owed in order to squeeze as much money from them as he could, even though these were working class people. Kushner’s company took advantage of the fact that poor people cannot afford lawyers and can be intimidated with legal threats, and rich people can manipulate the legal system to their advantage. In the show, a white couple who are tenants who had complained about all the fees they did not understand and the lack of maintenance of their apartment say they like and vote for Trump because he “gets things done”. It is not clear if they knew that the person who was making their lives hell is their hero’s son-in-law, or if they do not care.
As a result of the burst of negative publicity and an alliance of a crusading lawyer and a member of the New York city council, the city housing department has finally taken some steps to close what are known as the ‘Kushner loopholes’ that enabled him to abuse tenants.
But even more despicable is that even as the pandemic hits people hard and they are losing their jobs and income, Kushner’s companies are still aggressively harassing tenants with debt collections and evictions lawsuits.
At least 15 tenants in New Jersey and Maryland have been on the receiving end of lawsuits from Kushner-owned properties even after both states declared states of emergency. Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., and Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., have both called for a moratorium on evictions and courts have been closed, postponing hearing dates for a range of debt collection-related activities.
The Maryland and New Jersey moratoriums on evictions, however, do not prevent debt collectors from filing new lawsuits.
On March 25, Westminster Management, a unit of Kushner Companies, filed a lawsuit requesting sheriff services to enforce an eviction against a man residing at the company’s Harbor Point Estate apartment in Essex, Maryland. Days later, on March 30, Kushner’s company filed a collection lawsuit against another man in the same complex.
The previous week, on March 19, Oxford Arms, a Kushner-owned apartment complex in Edison, New Jersey, filed six lawsuits against tenants. Other lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks against tenants by legal entities tied to the Whispering Woods complex in Middle River, Maryland; the Cove Village complex in Essex, Maryland; and the Pier Village building in Long Branch, New Jersey — all of which are owned by Kushner.
The Slumlord Millionaire episode calls Jared Kushner a ‘tier one predator’ and one cannot dispute the accuracy of that label. Wealthy people who want to become even wealthier by squeezing poor people out of what little they have are truly despicable human beings. Kushner belongs in jail for his slumlord behavior, not in the White House.
Here is a brief trailer for the series.