Look, this is what white working-class voters in Ohio and Iowa wanted. https://t.co/ej8aWokp37
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) October 26, 2019
Turns out those ‘Opportunity Zones’ aren’t just a financial lifeline for Jared Kushner’s family of grifters — it’s a smorgasbord for allll the financial predators among Donny Dollhands’ associates…
In the 1980s, Michael Milken embodied Wall Street greed. A swashbuckling financier, he was charged with playing a central role in a vast insider-trading scheme and was sent to prison for violating federal securities and tax laws. He was an inspiration for the Gordon Gekko character in the film “Wall Street.”
Mr. Milken has spent the intervening decades trying to rehabilitate his reputation through an influential nonprofit think tank, the Milken Institute, devoted to initiatives “that advance prosperity.”
These days, the Milken Institute is a leading proponent of a new federal tax break that was intended to coax wealthy investors to plow money into distressed communities known as “opportunity zones.” The institute’s leaders have helped push senior officials in the Trump administration to make the tax incentive more generous, even though it is under fire for being slanted toward the wealthy.
Mr. Milken, it turns out, is in a position to personally gain from some of the changes that his institute has urged the Trump administration to enact. In one case, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, directly intervened in a way that benefited Mr. Milken, his longtime friend.
It is a vivid illustration of the power that Mr. Milken, who was barred from the securities industry and fined $600 million as part of his 1990 felony conviction, has amassed in President Trump’s Washington. In addition to the favorable tax-policy changes, some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers — including Mr. Mnuchin, Jared Kushner and Rudolph W. Giuliani — have lobbied the president to pardon Mr. Milken for his crimes, or supported that effort, according to people familiar with the effort…
The former “junk bond king” has investments in at least two major real estate projects inside federally designated opportunity zones in Nevada, near Mr. Milken’s Lake Tahoe vacation home, according to public records reviewed by The New York Times.
One of those developments, inside an industrial park, is a nearly 700-acre site in which Mr. Milken is a major investor. Last year, after pressure from Mr. Milken’s business partner and other landowners, the Treasury Department ignored its own guidelines on how to select opportunity zones and made the area eligible for the tax break, according to people involved in the discussions and records reviewed by The Times.
The unusual decision was made at the personal instruction of Mr. Mnuchin, according to internal Treasury Department emails. It came shortly after he had spent time with Mr. Milken at an event his institute hosted…
Mr. Milken — operating from an X-shaped trading desk in Beverly Hills, Calif. — was a Wall Street legend. He pioneered the junk bond, which enabled financially risky companies to borrow billions of dollars and ignited a wave of often-hostile corporate takeovers that came to define a go-go era. His firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert, hosted an annual event, which came to be known as the Predators’ Ball, where the era’s greatest financiers mingled. Mr. Milken became a billionaire.
Then, in 1989, federal prosecutors charged him with violating securities and tax laws and with being part of a lucrative insider-trading ring. The next year, Drexel Burnham went bankrupt.
Mr. Milken pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and paid $600 million in fines. After cooperating with the government, he ended up serving about two years behind bars…
Mr. Milken, however, has largely managed to restore his reputation — and his clout. His family gave tens of millions of dollars to his Milken Institute, which he founded in 1991 and whose board of directors he leads. After battling prostate cancer, he helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fund cancer research…
The most public display of his renewed stature comes each spring in Los Angeles when Mr. Milken presides over a glitzy gathering at the Beverly Hilton — the same venue where his famed Predators’ Balls took place three decades ago.
The Milken Institute’s annual conference attracts thousands of the world’s most powerful people — from government, finance, medicine, Hollywood and the like — for a frenzy of high-powered networking and conspicuous consumption… Mr. Milken is the power broker at the center of the action. Onstage, he interviews famous guests. In private, he organizes exclusive dinners. Some have called the event the Davos of North America.
In the Trump era, cabinet secretaries and White House advisers have been among the event’s marquee guests, more so than in other recent administrations. Coveted speaking roles have gone to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Mr. Kushner, giving them access to an elite audience.
At last year’s event in Beverly Hills, attendees included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Mr. Mnuchin. The Treasury secretary was accompanied by several senior aides, including Daniel Kowalski, who is overseeing the department’s drafting of the opportunity zone rules…
To quote a famous predators’ motto from the first Gilded Age: Anything not nailed down is mine. Anything I can pry loose is not nailed down.