Nel's New Day

February 3, 2012

Siegel Represents the 1 Percent

Newt Gingrich has a number of loyal supporters, including the ostentatious David Siegel. People may not recognize his name, but they will recall his 90,000-square-foot unfinished house in Florida that he’s still trying to sell for $75 million. When I wrote about him a few months ago, a computer search lacked anything current about him. Siegel, however, has reappeared in the limelight, this time with a lawsuit.

When filmmaker Lauren Greenfield obtained Siegel’s permission to make a documentary about the opulent home patterned after Versailles, home of French kings,  the year was 2007, and Siegel thought he could afford to build his palace. By 2008 the recession stopped the building but not the film, The Queen of Versailles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month. Siegel’s suffering company, Westgate, has a time-share resort in Park City (UT) where Sundance films are shown.

Sundance’s promotion described the collapse of Siegel’s time-share empire and the foreclosure on his mansion. Siegel took umbrage to this and the description of his “rags-to-riches-to-rags story,” claiming that this publicity is hurting his company’s business. Sundance changed the description but kept the offending phrase. Meanwhile the original description is still wandering the Internet. Not satisfied, Siegel tried to keep Sundance from showing the film.

His next approach was to file a lawsuit that alleges, “As a result of the defamatory statements, Siegel and Westgate have been injured in their good name, credit and reputation, have been shunned by customers and the business community, specifically the Park City area, with whom they previously had business relations and have suffered a loss of customers and diminished profits.” The solution, according to the lawsuit, is a sum in excess of $75,000 in damages from Sundance, Greenfield, and her husband-filmmaker, Frank Evers, as well as court costs.

“It’s just one more effort to ridicule and humiliate the 1 percent,” said the 76-year-old business owner. “They made it look like my company is in ruins, that I live in a pigsty, that my wife is a gold-digging blonde bimbo, that she’s overendowed, that she’s a shopaholic.” Then he backtracked a bit. “Some of that might be true but it’s not the way they presented it. She’s a shopaholic, but what woman isn’t.”

Siegel is also hostile about the filmmakers’ omission of his political and charitable activities. He takes pride in having had the Rev. Jerry Falwell in his home and describes himself as a “political kingmaker” who was “personally responsible for getting George W. Bush elected president.”

The Newsweek column (2/6/12) about Siegel and his lawsuit is available on the net complete with a photo of the house, but this source is missing the statistics, such as 23 bathrooms, and the lovely photo of David and Jacqueline Siegel. Those images are well-worth seeking out the original.

David Siegel has made himself an icon of the income inequality, the “class warfare” which Republicans contend is tearing the country apart. He wishes to build a 90,000-square-foot house while 1.5 million people are homeless and another 15.8 million are paying over 50 percent of their income toward house, making them eligible for tenant-based housing subsidies. Only one in nine, however, receive this benefit. In 2010, 17.2 million households in the United States, approximately 1 out of 7 in this country, were “food insecure” (a polite term for hungry), the highest number ever recorded in theUnited States. That was a year ago; the number increased in the last 12 months.

Food stamp use rose 70 percent over the past four years with the trend expected to continue. With the overwhelming layoffs and house foreclosures in late 2008 and early 2009, the number of people needing money for groceries went from 27 million people to 46 million, the number receiving food stamps six months ago. This assistance gives people about $2 per meal. Meanwhile the cost of living increased 3.6 percent while wages stayed stagnant—if people had wages.

The Gallup organization released information last October that American workers are now three times more likely than Chinese workers to be unable to feed their families. In the United States, 19 percent of Americans worried about being able to feed themselves or their families, compared to only 6 percent of Chinese. In this country almost one in four children go to bed hungry every night.

With his desire to build the biggest house in the nation and his lawsuit from feeling insulted, David Siegel is a symbol of the wealthy conservatives who believe that the people without homes, the ones who can’t feed their kids, just aren’t working hard enough. He supports Newt Gingrich for president, the man who said, “I repudiate, and I call on the President to repudiate, the concept of the 99 and the 1. It is un-American, it is divisive, it is historically false…You are not going to get job creation when you engage in class warfare because you have to attack the very people you hope will create jobs.”

Fact: The U.S. is number 1 in the world in terms of income inequality.

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