Trump's 2017 #taxscam transferred more than a trillion dollars to the richest people in America, but when Trump talks about it, he likes to tout the bill's "opportunity zone" provisions that provided massive tax breaks to investors who put money into places that would supposedly create jobs and housing for poor Americans.
But which regions get designated as "opportunity zones" was left up to state governments, and have become a corruption bonanza as major political donors lean on state governors to designate their pet property developments as tax-havens, even as actual poor neighborhoods in desperate need of investment are turned down for status.
This is especially visible in Florida, where then-Governor Rick Scott handed his top donors special tax designations for luxury projects, while turning down multiple applications from some of Florida's poorest areas.
Among Florida's "opportunity zones" are Rybovich marina, a marina for $100m+ superyachts abutted by luxury condo towers called Marina Village. They're owned by Wayne Huizenga Jr, the scion of the Blockbuster Video fortune, who lobbied Scott for the marina's inclusion, resulting in a change to the designation plans. Other billionaire Scott donors also cashed in on the "opportunity zone" scam, thanks to their stake in Marina Village. Billionaire Tampa Ball Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, another Scott donor, got a tax break for his luxury residence/hotel/shop development in Tampa.
The beneficiaries of this corruption insisted to Propublica that they weren't seeking tax breaks for themselves, but rather, they were motivated by concern for small-time investors who might build on adjacent lands.
City leaders identified three other tracts in the North End of West Palm Beach as their top picks to be opportunity zones. All three are poor. “The core tracts of the North End are racially and ethnically diverse, with a population of approximately 57,000 people, of which over 65% earn less than $15,000 per year,” according to a city memo. They were also attractive areas for growth. All “are rebounding from significant blight and are well positioned for new investment,” the memo said.
The tract with the superyacht marina was wealthier and whiter than the tracts identified by city leaders. Based on median income, it is hardly rich. But the area is testament to how the overall economic data of a single census tract can mask pockets of extreme wealth.
On North Flagler Drive along the Intracoastal Waterway, multimillion-dollar mansions dot the waterfront, obstructed from street view by walls and palm trees. Last year, Rybovich’s Huizenga bought a $5 million property from Rosie O’Donnell there, down the road from the superyacht marina.
A Trump Tax Break To Help The Poor Went To a Rich GOP Donor’s Superyacht Marina [Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen and Kyle Edwards/Propublica]