OKLAHOMA CITY -- A retiree says he was "duped by the Donald" and lost $35,000 to Trump University, a short-lived and controversial Donald Trump business venture. A single mom says she "made a huge mistake trusting him" and lost just as much money, maybe more. A man identified only as "Kevin" says Trump University ruined his credit; he called Trump "a fraud, a misrepresentation, a B.S. artist."
The American Future Fund -- a conservative nonprofit based in Iowa that advocates for conservative and free-market issues -- released three ads Friday that use these former Trump University students to attack Trump, the Republican presidential nomination front-runner. Each student, identified only by first name, urges voters not to trust Trump.
"I was scammed because I believed in Donald Trump -- he can make people believe practically anything," the retiree says in one of the ads. In another, Kevin says: "America, don't make the same mistake I made with Donald Trump."
Trump has repeatedly defended Trump University, which was never licensed as an institution of higher education, and has said that a majority of students were satisfied with the real estate training program. Trump University started in 2004, and about 80,000 people attended free introductory seminars held in hotel ballrooms across the country. About 9,200 of those participants then paid $1,495 for three-day real estate seminars, and nearly 800 paid up to $35,000 for all-inclusive packages that included one-on-one mentoring.
Trump University changed its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative in May 2010 -- the New York State Education Department had deemed the "university" part of the name misleading -- and, soon after, stopped operating. The venture is still caught up in three pending lawsuits, including a $40 million suit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D).
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) both mentioned Trump University during the GOP debate on Thursday night, forcing Trump to explain and defend himself. Trump has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong. A spokeswoman for Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the new attack ads.
The ads were posted on the nonprofit group's website on Friday, but a representative of the group did not respond to a request for comment. The New York Times reported the group plans to spend millions of dollars airing the ads, which are reminiscent of attack ads Democrats used against Mitt Romney in 2012 that featured people who said they were victimized by Bain Capital, the private equity firm where Romney was a partner.