Eminent Domain an Issue in Republican Presidential Primary, Again

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is using a new ad against GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, based on his use of eminent domain against an elderly woman in Atlantic City. Trump strongly defended using the controversial tool.
January 29, 2016, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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For at least the second time, eminent domain, the controversial process by which government condemns private land generally to use for a public purpose, has entered the 2016 presidential campaign. Interestingly, both cases occurred in New Jersey.

The case is very different than the one involving Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) who enacted eminent domain "to find an ecological solution to better protect the residents of the Jersey Shore," according to an earlier Planetizen post.

"A new Ted Cruz ad will focus on Trump’s dealings in Atlantic City, where Trump used eminent domain to allegedly force an elderly woman off her land in order to build a limousine parking lot for a casino," writes Tina Nguyen, political reporter for Vanity Fair.

Using the tool, which is controversial in itself, is particularly questionable when enacted for private development, as the landmark 2005 case, Kelo vs. New London, illustrated. [See recent post on the case.]

"In the 1990s Trump and the New Jersey government tried to use eminent domain laws to force the elderly widow Vera Coking to sell her house for Trump's limousine parking lot, but they lost the argument in court and the deal never happened," writes Jonathan Swan for The Hill.

But Trump mounted a strong defense for use of the tool, though not necessarily for parking lots, according to Swan.

"Without a eminent domain you wouldn’t have a highway in the country. You wouldn’t have a railroad, you wouldn’t have a road, you wouldn’t have a hospital, you wouldn’t have schools. 

"I’m not in love with eminent domain, but you have to understand some things are necessary. The Keystone Pipeline, there’s a whole section devoted to eminent domain," he said. [And it proved very controversial, becoming its own court case].

"Kellyanne Conway, a GOP pollster who leads the Keep the Promise I super-PAC supporting Cruz," sees similarities of Trump's use of eminent domain with Gov. Chris Christie's "vulnerabilities" exposed by the bridge-gate scandal that continues to dog the governor. Of course, one is legal and the other is still under investigation by the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, the position held by Christie himself from 2002-2008.

Swan goes on to write about other attacks on Trump from super-PACs.

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Published on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 in Vanity Fair
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