When Donald Trump visits Cincinnati, he talks about his work as a twentysomething at a Bond Hill apartment complex – but he doesn’t talk about what went wrong there.
Trump helped his father manage Swifton Village, a location now called the Villages of Daybreak, after the elder Trump bought it in 1962. Fred Trump bought the vacancy-riddled property for $5.7 million, turned it around and filled it with renters, then sold it in 1972 for a profit, according to reports in the Enquirer archives. Donald Trump boasted about the success of the investment in “The Art of the Deal.”
He didn’t mention a 1970 lawsuit that accused Fred Trump’s company of racial discrimination as it decided who could rent the apartments.
Bond Hill was a predominantly white neighborhood as late as 1970, as was the 1,200-unit apartment complex. In 1969, an African-American stock clerk at General Electric Aircraft Engines applied for an apartment and was told there were no vacancies. A white couple sent in by Housing Opportunities Made Equal did find a vacancy, and the stock clerk sued under the federal Fair Housing Act.
The Trumps’ company never admitted discrimination and settled the suit by giving the stock clerk an apartment, according to a Los Angeles Times review of Trump-related housing discrimination suits.
Trump’s opponents in the presidential election are hoping there was more to the Swifton Village case. American Bridge, a super PAC that backs Democrat Hillary Clinton, and liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio have launched 10 days’ of digital ads targeted to Cincinnati web users, hoping to find people who experienced discrimination at Swifton Village and broadcast their stories to hurt Trump.
Even if they don’t find new contacts, the ads spread the message in swing-state Ohio that people were “screwed by Donald Trump.” The ads also will run in Toledo and Youngstown, and their imagery is heavily focused on Trump University, Trump’s real estate courses which have been targeted in several high-profile lawsuits.
The related website, DonaldTrumpScrewedMe.com, takes contact information and asks, among other things: “Were you one of Trump’s tenants who faced housing discrimination or bad living conditions?”
How much Trump had to do with the alleged discrimination at the Bond Hill apartment complex is up for debate. He wasn’t sued personally – the suit was filed against Swifton Land Corporation.
And Trump wasn’t personally running the place day-to-day: A longtime maintenance man at the complex told The Enquirer in 1990 he remembered Trump’s visiting the apartments for a week at a time. He even did yard work.
In “The Art of the Deal,” Trump gave himself credit for identifying the complex as an investment. "In college, while my friends were reading the comics and the sports pages of newspapers, I was reading the listings of FHA foreclosures," Trump wrote. "And that's how I found out about Swifton Village."
But that was an exaggeration, wrote Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire”: Trump’s father was the force behind the Swifton Village deal, Blair maintained.
The anti-Trump ad campaign meant to capitalize on the Swifton Village discrimination suit fits a “familiar pattern,” said Seth Unger, a spokesman for Trump in Ohio, in a statement.
"Hillary has limousine liberals like (billionaire donor) George Soros spread lies in Ohio while she hides from the press and dodges questions about the corrupt pay-to-play scheme she ran while Secretary of State,” Unger said. “Mr. Trump's strong message of bringing back jobs, supporting law enforcement, and securing our borders is resonating in Cincinnati, Toledo, Youngstown, and across Ohio, which is why Hillary is calling on her deep-pocketed friends and their crooked foundations to try to bail her out.”