Sorry, before we begin, I have to get some giggles out.
We here at Paste have been, uh, skeptical of Michael Avenatti’s presidential aspirations—as best embodied by Roger Sollenberger’s excellent column attacking the logic undergirding Avenatti’s presidential bid.
He's got a point, obviously. But he's offering a false choice, and one that's seduced too many voters already.
Not only is this “takes a Trump” logic a depressingly cynical concession about America's institutional rot, it's not logical in that it misunderstands the nature of Trump's victory in the first place. It's also lazy, and smacking of an aversion to the serious and necessary work of diagnosing and fixing the many nuanced problems in the Democratic party. Worst of all, it makes a celebrity out of cynicism, another outbreak of the epidemic of political negligence that made a President Trump — and a President Avenatti — possible. And that's why an Avenatti candidacy would be in one sense worse than Trump: It would be a surrender of seriousness, abandonment of the principles and purpose of the United States government. In other words, it's an extension of Trumpism.
So excuse me if I laugh at Avenatti's good fortune of resembling the man he claims he can be a better version of. Per The Daily Beast:
But the questions over his finances remain—and could become a sore spot on the campaign trail, as creditors pursue him and his former companies. Both the Eagan Avenatti law firm and a shuttered Seattle coffee chain, which Avenatti says he no longer owns, owe millions in unpaid taxes and judgments, according to court documents and filings with local recorder's offices.
Tax liens filed in Orange County also show that Avenatti has personally owed at least $1.2 million in federal taxes on top of the corporate debts. One lien, filed in February 2018, was for $308,396, while another filed in August 2015 showed a balance of $903,987. The Daily Beast did not find records showing the liens were released, but Avenatti claims both debts were “fully paid.”
Civil court filings paint a picture of Avenatti as a hard-charging attorney who enjoyed the luxe life—jetting around the world to race cars with a Saudi prince and treating his wife and their friends to luxury villas in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Yet he and his companies owed hundreds of thousands in unpaid taxes and in compensation to one former colleague, who claims Avenatti stiffed him out of millions in law-firm profits.
Before he actually won, the joke in politics was always that Trump ran for president as a business opportunity—and he was right to do so. Major media has proven through its conflict-driven model that a man like that can draw a lot of eyeballs. It pains me to say this, but running every four years was actually a pretty (cynically) savvy move by Trump—who as that incredible New York Times investigation proved—has been running from the IRS his entire life.
Perhaps Avenatti meant something like pre-2016 Trump when he compared himself to the current president? Seems like he needs the cash. Stormy Daniels’ (former?) lawyer is a fine ally, and a valuable attack dog amongst a liberal establishment bereft of effective messengers, but he’s miscast as a president. We can do better than another TV president. We have to.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.