Andy Martin defends Donald Trump against attacks by some conservatives on the question of Trump’s support for the concept of eminent domain
ANDY MARTIN /2016
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Republican presidential candidate and adjunct professor of law Andy Martin defends Donald Trump on the issue of eminent domain
In the Sixth of his “Letters From the 2016 Presidential Campaign” Andy defends one of his opponents, Donald Trump, in a controversy over Trump’s views on the issue of “eminent domain”
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(New York)(October 8, 2015) Dear American:
You may be confused by the kerfuffle involving “conservatives” and Donald Trump over the principle of eminent domain. The dispute is simply a tempest in a teapot and Trump is right on this one. I don’t like to openly defend Trump because he is, after all, a competitor. But the over-the-top efforts by some so-called conservatives to attack Trump on the question of eminent domain are ridiculous. As a constitutional scholar and litigator I feel duty bound to defend Trump where he is right.
I obviously am not going to be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. But in my continuing role as a candidate I will act as a one-man truth squad to point out excesses and errors in judgment by members of my own party during the presidential nominating process. And I remain unalterably opposed to Jeb Bush as a candidate.
- What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain is the legal doctrine by which private property may be taken for public use. The term “public use” has been given a broad interpretation by the courts, which is what upsets some conservatives.
- Is eminent domain a constitutional doctrine?
While eminent domain is not mentioned in so many words, the principle/concept of eminent domain is part of the Fifth Amendment (often known for some of its more colorful clauses) to the U. S. Constitution. The founders felt the principle of just compensation (i.e. the payment of just compensation for private property being taken by government) was so important that they enshrined the doctrine of just compensation in the Constitution.
- Why is eminent domain controversial?
People feel “proprietary” about their property. They often do not like to part with what they own, or may have been owned in a family for generations. But “taking” private property for public good, as Mr. Trump notes, is usually not controversial, although it is often opposed even when it is not controversial. For example, when Congress authorized the interstate highway system, it was obvious that ribbons of concrete were going to be placed across the entire country. Where people did not want to sell property for construction of a highway, their property was taken, in this case for the national good. They were compensated fully for that taking, even though they continued to complain.
Full disclosure: for the past four years I have helped lead a fight against Northern Pass, a power line proposal across New Hampshire that I believe is ill-advised. Northern Pass involves eminent domain issues. So in that particular controversy I am opposing the use of eminent domain.
- When does eminent domain become controversial?
Eminent domain usually becomes controversial when a government tries to engage in quasi-governmental activity such as economic development. The case which gets conservative juices flowing, Kelo v. New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) involved an economic development scheme by the City of New London, Connecticut. Admittedly, Kelo was a close case for the use of eminent domain, because the city was trying to take a neighborhood of modest properties and develop the real estate into a center of economic activity. Urban “redevelopment” projects in the 1950’s and 1960’s that used eminent domain were also controversial and often unsuccessful.
Reasonable people can differ about whether the New London scheme was well thought out. The decision was a close one. Kelo fell right on the line between “obviously right” and “obviously wrong.”
But with all of the national challenges we face, I simply do not see eminent domain as a major issue in the presidential campaign. Not even in the Republican Party primaries. Rather, some conservatives are using the concept of eminent domain as a pretext to unjustifiably smear Donald Trump for his support of a doctrine that has been part of our national jurisprudence for centuries.
Usually an eminent domain case becomes controversial when an elderly person is offered a large sum of money for what is actually worth much less and refuses the enhanced price (see below) and the person refuses to sell.
- Is Trump an “eminent domainer?” Indeed he is
Trump is usually attacked for seeking to have property taken by eminent domain to construct a parking lot for a casino he was building in New Jersey. There was a dilapidated rooming house on a corner of Trump’s proposed project. My recollection is that eminent domain failed and the effort to incorporate the rooming house property in the Trump casino was unsuccessful. Is that the end of the story? Not by a country mile.
First, Trump was creating a major source of employment in a community that was economically distressed. With economic development as a national priority, it is hard to criticize someone for developing a project that will create hundreds or thousands of new jobs. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new jobs hinged on Trump’s construction program.
Second, the person who owned the property was dotty. She not only refused “just compensation” for her land, she refused Trump’s offers which were on their economic merits far beyond reason. Again, my recollection is that Trump offered the owner around $2 million for the rooming house (research project: check the details and send them to me). The rooming house was not remotely worth $2 million; it only had an enhanced value as part of an assemblage of a larger parcel such as Trump’s casino.
Trump went ahead and built the hotel/casino without the rooming house land (he later sold out his casino interests). What happened to the rooming house? Recently the rooming house was sold for a few hundred thousand dollars, a small fraction of what Trump had offered. In other words, someone who owned a property worth maybe $500,000 was offered $2 million cash for the land by Trump and refused to sell. How many of us would feel that the owner refusing such a deal was rational? Would you turn down $2 million for a property you owned which was only worth $500,000? Not very likely.
Trump’s overall development scheme at the time had great economic potential (although Atlantic City later declined as a resort once other gambling locations opened). The owner of the rooming house was being offered four or five times the market value of her property for what was on its appearance barely more than a dumpy property. Is this “dispute” really worth the effort? Or are conservatives unfairly trying to flail Trump?
- The bottom line
While there may be rare injustices, people who negotiate in eminent domain cases usually receive above market value for their property. The “just compensation” clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects property owners. So why are “conservatives” trying to smear Trump? They just don’t like the man and they have, pardon the term, trumped up a bogus issue to attack him.
As the newscaster Paul Harvey used to say, “and now you know the rest of the story.” Mr. Trump has the far better position in this debate. The conservatives are trying to make something out of nothing. If you don’t like him, by all means vote again Trump. But don’t vote against him on the basis of a bogused-up issue.
STILL COMING: Dr. Carson and a Muslim president; a work-in-progress.
Copies of Andy’s 2008 book on Barack Obama are available from the publisher (see below).
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ANDY MARTIN – A BRIEF BIO:
Andy Martin is a legendary New Hampshire, New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, talk television pioneer, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. With forty-seven years of background in radio and television and with five decades of investigative and analytical experience in Washington, the USA and around the world, Andy provides insight on politics, foreign policy, intelligence and military matters. For a full bio, go to: www.AndyMartin.com; also see http://www.BoycottABC.com/executive_director.htm
Andy has also been a leading corruption fighter in American politics and courts for over forty-five years and is executive director of the National Anti-Corruption Policy Institute. See also www.FirstRespondersOnline.us; www.AmericaisReadyforReform.com.
He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).
He is the author of “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” [www.OrangeStatePress.com] and produced the Internet film “Obama: The Hawaii’ Years” [www.BoycottHawaii.com]. Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” blogging at www.contrariancommentary.wordpress.com and www.ContrarianCommentary.com.
Andy’s family immigrated to Manchester, New Hampshire 100 years ago; today his home overlooks the Merrimack River and he lives around the corner from where he played as a small boy. He is New Hampshire’s leading corruption fighter and Republican Party reformer.
Andy’s columns are also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com ContrarianCommentary.wordpress.com
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