The Real Estate Developer Reportedly Hosting Trump’s L.A. Fundraiser Has a History of Controversy

Billionaire builder Geoffrey H. Palmer will reportedly host the president in Beverly Hills this week. The two men have plenty in common.

Geoffrey H. Palmer, the Los Angeles real estate developer known for his faux-Italian-ish complexes with names like Da Vinci, Orsini, and Medici–and for his series of lawsuits, money laundering charges, and links to Paul Manafort–will reportedly host Donald Trump for a fundraiser in Beverly Hills on September 17. Palmer has long been an outspoken Trump ally; in 2016 Politico named him “Trump’s Los Angeles Money Man.”

Palmer, who’s forked over more than $10 million to support Trump-related funds, was one of the initial donors to the pro-Trump Rebuilding America Now super PAC in 2016. That PAC, co-founded by Paul Manafort, was investigated by Robert Mueller in connection with the Russian interference probe. It was suspected that the PAC engaged in multiple campaign finance violations, including paying out at least $125,000 to cover Manafort’s debts; Manafort is currently in prison for fraud.

That wasn’t the first time Palmer’s political activity came under legal scrutiny. Palmer and his company were charged with 15 counts of illegally laundering political campaign contributions in 1991, after being accused of engaging in schemes where he would pressure employees to make contributions to PACs or campaign committees as individuals and then pay them back from his own funds to get around campaign finance laws. This political activity was linked to a desire to minimize regulations in areas where he wanted to build.

Prior to the development of the Orsini complex, one of the area’s last remaining Queen Anne-style houses—which was set to be moved to Angelino Heights—was destroyed by one of Palmer’s bulldozers. Palmer said the incident was an accident–and when authorities tried to get him to pay for the destruction of a historic building, he responded by suing the city himself.

In February of this year, Palmer’s company, G.H. Palmer Associates, was sued by a group of former tenants of his L.A. apartments who allege the company wrongfully kept their security deposits without cause. The class-action suit claims at least 11,000 cases of tenant deposits being withheld, ostensibly due to generic, unexplained “charges” that do not meet the legally required standard for keeping the funds.

Palmer’s apartments, which typically rent for around $2,000 to $5,000 per month, and are credited by critics as a force in the displacement of long-time residents of downtown L.A., were subject of another lawsuit in 2014, when the city determined that the builder had failed to install adequate fire protection for the Da Vinci complex, and had built using cheaper wood-frame construction rather than the steel and concrete many other downtown developers use. That determination followed an arson incident which, the city claimed, could have been mitigated by higher safety standards.

Oh, and the inspiration for his obsession with Italian names and motifs? An odd insistence that, as he told Los Angeles in 2014, “The Italians actually settled L.A. before the Spanish and Chinese,” a statement which is contradicted by most historical records.

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