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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida On Trump Tower Tampa's Demise; Rick Scott's Claims On The Economy

Trump Tower Tampa logo

There's still a big hole in the ground where a 52-story tower was supposed to have been built by Donald Trump in downtown Tampa. But did he really "pocket the money and walk away" when it didn't get built? To answer that question, and see if Rick Scott is right on the economy, we talk with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

During the recent Democratic convention in Philadelphia, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine took aim at Donald Trump, well, more than a few times. But one comment perked the ears of many people in Florida:


"Retirees and families in Florida — they believed Donald Trump when he said he'd build them some condos. Thousands of them," Kaine said on the third night of the Democratic National Convention. "They paid their deposits, but the condos, they were never built. He just pocketed their money and walked away. They lost tens of thousands of dollars, all because they believed Donald Trump."

One of the condos Kaine was talking about was a proposed Trump Tower in downtown Tampa. It was supposed to soar 52 stories, but got cut down during the recession. But did Trump really have anything to do with it, other than slapping his name on the tower?  Here's what PolitiFact Florida has to say:


In 2004, at the height of the Tampa real estate boom, local developers incorporated under the name SimDag/Robel contacted Trump to ask him to partner on a condo tower they wanted to build. The group eventually reached a licensing agreement with Trump: He would lend his name to Trump Tower Tampa for $2 million plus a percentage of condo sales. The document stipulated that neither the developers nor Trump would "under any circumstances disclose or permit to be disclosed the existence of this agreement.'' No one would know Trump’s involvement was in name only. But the project ran over budget quickly. The site required a redesign of the foundation, and construction issues soon ballooned the cost of the project from initially being $227 million to $300 million. In 2006, the developers held a groundbreaking, but had yet to secure financing. Trump’s licensing agreement was modified that year, giving him $4 million but conceding a cut of the sales. SimDag/Robel stopped paying, and Trump sued in May 2007, claiming he was owed $1.03 million in licensing fees. That lawsuit was the first indication for buyers that Trump was only slapping his name on the project. SimDag/Robel countersued Trump for breaking the confidentiality of the licensing agreement by complaining publicly about the project. Trump and the developers settled in 2008. SimDag/Robel called off the entire project and declared bankruptcy. Buyers, meanwhile, were out of luck. While the escrow half of their deposits was returned, the other half had been eaten up by construction costs. Some customers were out as much as $250,000 or more. Several dozen buyers sued Trump in 2009, arguing that they had been misled with "fraudulent and negligent misrepresentations" that the billionaire was more involved with the project bearing his name. Within three years, the buyers in the lawsuit reached settlements. Some were repaid as little as $11,115, according to the Times. Other buyers not a part of the suit received nothing. It’s clear that many buyers, whatever their occupation or familial status, indeed lost at least that much in the failed Trump projects in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Some were further compensated partially with settlements after suing the billionaire. Whether Trump cheated them is another matter. While his licensing agreements with the developers were secret, he was entitled to a certain amount of money for putting his name on the building. He was sued by several dozen angry buyers and either settled or was found not at fault, which is not the same as walking away without addressing the problems. Kaine’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.

Moving on the Republican convention in Cleveland, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, "Let me tell you why this is the time for Donald to be president. A lot of politicians like to give speeches where they say, ‘We are at a crossroads.’ That’s not really where we are today. Today America is in a terrible world, record-high debt. Our economy is not growing."


But is our economy "not growing?" Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:


Economic growth A key way to measure economic growth is the gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the sum total of a country’s economic activity. The Bureau of Economic Analysis within the U.S. Department of Commerce posts quarterly and annual GDP data for the United States. According to the data, GDP has grown every year since 2010, between 1.5 and 2.5 percent a year. The last time GDP was negative was in 2009 -- negative 2.8 percent -- amid the recession. So for the past few years, the economy has been growing — maybe just not by as much as Scott would like. To be fair, Scott isn’t alone in wishing growth were higher. As we have previously reported, there’s a common belief among economists that the United States is unlikely to see the rapid growth it experienced during the first few decades after World War II, when the country had fewer international competitors. The GDP has grown between 1.5 and 2.5 percent each year since 2010. That’s perhaps not the level of growth Scott wants, but it’s misleading to say that the economy isn’t growing. We rate this claim False.


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