In the final hours of his presidency, Donald Trump pardoned scores of people. Like much of the news-weary public, I just wanted the relentless news cycle orbiting this incompetent man to finally stop. But a name in the article jumped out at me: Elliott Broidy. He was a former client of mine. Pardon me? Yes. This is where things make the bizarre jump from software engineering into politics.

My former client on trial

Back in 2015, I was doing freelance work in Los Angeles. Via a referral I was introduced to the CEO of a company whose website was undergoing debilitating DDoS attacks.

Mitigating DDoS attacks is one of the most difficult challenges for any web site because it forces you to look holistically at the application, its servers, its deployment, all the way down into the weeds of network layers. There are seldom quick fixes, and any potential change requires nuanced discussion.

Unfortunately, getting answers out of anyone at this company proved to be insanely difficult. They seemed to think that all problems would magically disappear simply because they had hired a developer, yet they were curiously adverse to making any real decisions or discussing their repercussions. Instead of green-lighting proposed code changes that would have allowed sessions to persist across load-balanced servers, for example, the CEO asked me to urgently investigate an employee who he was convinced was stealing product from pallets in a warehouse on the other side of the country. Excuse me? (This is, by the way, why you should bill upfront and hourly.)

So things with this company were weird from the start, and even now, it makes no sense why any of these shenanigans should have trickled up to the president of the investment firm who owned a stake in this company. But soon I found myself heading to the headquarters of Broidy Capital Management in Century City to meet with the billionaire himself.

The receptionist was a young blonde girl in a short skirt who brought me a tray of tea and coffee as I waited for Mr. Broidy. It was obvious that she was hired for more than her clerical skills. I remember feeling intensely uncomfortable having this girl wait on me. It was clearly all posturing: the board room overlooked the Los Angeles Country Club and was lavishly decorated with a huge mahogany table and signed photos of George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice. Mr. Broidy’s credentials as a Republican mega donor were on proud display. His aide, a young man transplanted from the rural south, pointed out these details like a museum docent and spoke of his boss in whispered awe.

Eventually Mr. Broidy arrived — a short man with a billowing paunch, T-Rex arms, and a forced smile. We conferenced in a few others and he nodded in agreement as we restated the obvious changes that should be made to the site. From an engineering standpoint, the entire conversation was completely unnecessary.

That visit left me feeling like I needed a cold shower. Was I surprised to later learn that he illegally peddled his political influence? No — his lobby was a veritable a shrine to that. Am I surprised he had an extramarital affair with a Playboy model? Not at all — he clearly had a thing for young blondes. Am I surprised he pressured her into having an abortion. Nope. Am I surprised that he paid hush money to keep this secret? 100% on brand. Am I surprised that he ended up not paying my invoices and got a lawyer involved to torpedo my contract? In retrospect, no, this is exactly the kind of thing I should have have seen coming because that’s the kind of “businessman” he is.

My advice to fledgling freelancers: avoid clients who prioritize showmanship over integrity and communication. If your gut is telling you that someone is all hat and no cattle, move on — it’s always cheaper that way. Beware clients who can afford more lawyers than you. I lost a lot of time and money dealing with Mr. Broidy, but it was a good education on how this type of person profits from the exploitation of others.

A disgraced former president may have pardoned you, Mr. Broidy, but my invoices are still unpaid.

Code person.