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February 22nd, 2016 — By — In Articles

Eminent Domain & Property Rights: Where Do the 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand on these Fundamental Issues?

Republican Presidential Candidates Discuss Their Opinions on Eminent Domain

With the Presidential race heating up and the field of candidates narrowing down, more and more issues are revealing distinctions between the hopefuls for the Oval Office. Somewhat surprisingly, one issue that recently created a bit of controversy among Republican candidates was the issue of eminent domain.  The current Republican front runners – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio – have been attacking each others’ positions on this important issue and stating their own on the fundamental right to own property

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is an ardent supporter of eminent domain, in fact some might even consider him a promoter of eminent domain abuse. He has publicly announced his support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, in which the Court held 5-4 that government can use eminent domain to take property from one private owner and transfer it to another for purposes of “economic development.”  Further, he has publicly stated that he believes eminent domain can be an important tool for both public and private development projects.

David Boaz of the CATO Institute recently recounted how Trump lobbied local governments to use eminent domain in the 1990s.  In Atlantic City, NJ Trump envisioned a limousine parking lot where a residence owned by Vera Coking and 2 additional private properties stood near his Trump Plaza hotel.  He turned to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) to use its condemnation power to acquire the properties standing in the way.  Similarly, in Bridgeport, CT, he proposed building a mixed-use entertainment and office park.  The plan, which ultimately fell through, included the City’s condemnation of five private properties, which Trump’s company would later buy from the City and redevelop.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz has recently used Trump’s position on eminent domain as grounds to attack the real estate mogul’s campaign. In one political ad, Cruz’s campaign calls eminent domain, a “fancy term for politicians seizing private property to enrich the fat cats who bankroll them — like Trump.”  The Cruz campaign has also released an ad that attacks Trump’s involvement in Atlantic City CDRA’s attempted condemnation of the Vera Coking property.

However, Cruz has also publicly stated his support for pipeline development – both in his home state of Texas and nationwide. As we have previously discussed, the oil and gas companies proposing such pipeline projects rely on the power of eminent domain to build what is often considered a “public utility” project.  However, as opponents of projects like the Keystone XL have argued, some pipelines do not benefit the landowners whose properties are condemned for the project.  Rather, end users hundreds of miles away and the energy company building the infrastructure become the true beneficiaries. Additionly, the Texas Tribune reports that Cruz supported TransCanada’s use of eminent domain to construct the Keystone XL pipeline through North Texas.

Marco Rubio

Like Cruz, Marco Rubio has criticized Trump’s support of using the power of eminent domain for private gain. However, his attack appears to be limited to Kelo-type uses, with his campaign website stating that he supports protecting private property rights over giving the government the power to “seize [private] property and sell it to rent-seeking private interests.”

Of all of the Republican candidates, Rubio’s record on eminent domain might be the most friendly toward private property rights.  In an October 2015 post in Hot Air, Rubio recounted his involvement in Florida’s response to Kelo.  Following the Kelo decision, Rubio led a special committee of the Florida House that drafted both a constitutional amendment and new state law to end the abuse of eminent domain and prohibit its use by the government to transfer condemned private property to another private entity.  Rubio wrote, eminent domain “is often wielded by crony capitalist politicians to benefit wealthy and powerful private developers.”

Owners’ Counsel of America | Leading Eminent Domain Lawyers Nationwide

As a property owner, understanding the candidates’ positions on eminent domain is an important step toward making an informed decision when it comes time to vote this November. At Owners’ Counsel of America, we encourage all voters to do their research before heading to the polls. For more information on the government’s power of eminent domain, visit our blog or contact us to speak with an attorney in your state today.