July 6, 2018

Jillian Jorgensen made a difference this week.

Questions by Jorgensen, the City Hall bureau chief of the New York Daily News, prompted President Donald Trump to have to pay more taxes on his Trump Tower condo. They also shed light on a ridiculous claim by Trump's camp that the occupant of the White House actually is spending more of this year in New York instead of Washington.

On Thursday, New York's finance department rejected that claim, saying Trump was ineligible for a tax abatement based on residency for the 2018-2019 tax year. 

For Jorgensen and the Daily News, the scoop is part of the unsexy gumshoe reporting and beat work that is the bread and butter of metro news. 

“A lot of journalism is not that exciting, like looking at property records or the City Record, which we do every day,” said Jorgensen, formerly of amNewYork, the New York Observer and the Staten Island Advance. “Most of those city contracts are boring, but some of them aren’t.”

Jorgensen says she actually thought she had the story in July 2017 (the tax year runs from July to June). Due to a quirk in the law, Trump's residence on Jan. 5, 2017 (Trump was still in New York before his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017) allowed him to keep the tax break for the 2017-18 year. 

She had forgotten about her work a year ago when, on Tuesday, an editorial board member, Alyssa Katz, reminded her that Trump probably wouldn't qualify this year. It was a slow week at City Hall, Jorgensen said, and "we didn't want to wait."

Jillian Jorgensen
Jillian Jorgensen. (Used with permission)

She immediately made the call to the city's finance department, which got back late Tuesday saying it didn't have final word yet. After Wednesday's holiday, the department got back Thursday, rejecting the Trump claim. Jorgensen is still awaiting a call back from Trump's tax team, cautioning that it is unclear who on Trump's side decided to claim the abatement this year, or if it was an oversight.

Jorgensen posted her story late Thursday, and Katz followed with an unfriendly mini-editorial (headline: Pay up, pal: Daily News catches Trump in a tax dodge) with Daily News-style turns of phrase ("The cheapskate in chief who once deposited a check for 13 cents and claimed a $304 school tax credit granted to the unwealthy is at it again").

Since then, Jorgensen has gotten a flood of comments on social media. Some have criticized her work, asking her if she'd done the same for Obama ("I’m looking at that," Jorgensen replied, adding that an early determination showed he didn't claim residency at his Chicago address while president.) 

Others were gleeful that Trump has to pay an additional $48,834.62. Jorgensen wants to make it clear she's not cheering from the press box.

"I just look at the tax bills and ask the questions,” she said, a sentiment that New York's Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, a frequent target of Jorgensen's inquiries, likely would second.

Likewise, after work Thursday, she didn't celebrate that her reporting set back America's most powerful person. 

"It's not like that," Jorgensen said. “I try to think of it more like, ‘I got today’s story. What do I have tomorrow?’”

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