Anti-eminent domain crusader and prankish troublemaker (that most noble of American occupations) Logan Darrow Clements may have failed in his attempt to turn Supreme Court Justice David Souter's New Hampshire home into the "Lost Liberty Hotel" by using eminent domain judo against him. But he hasn't given up. He wants to make himself the Michael Moore of eminent domain, and is currently making a documentary centered on the Halper family of Piscataway, NJ, one of many telegenic victims of the land-stealing practice in New Jersey (suggested state slogan: "Most of our elected officials have not been indicted.")
Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard has done a typically thorough and entertaining reporting job on Clements latest endeavors, including his ill-fated and ill-attended attempt at creating a consciousness-raising anti-eminent domain mini-Woodstock on the Halper's land.
For this event, he had a spreadsheet of constituencies to hit up for support. He skipped the Libertarians. "They suck, they never show up." He tried to interest RV owners, who told him "not enough notice." Then he targeted the Civil War reenactors. "They said not enough notice. . . . Bunch of fairies. They're more interested in playing dress-up." He even called a flash mob. "They said not enough notice. You're a flash mob! C'mon! I hate that. I mean, granted, I am a last-minute planner. I thought about calling the Hell's Angels, then I thought better of it."
After the event pulls in only two sad bands and 30 or so punters, many of them the band's girlfriends, he mordantly notes
"Was it Woody Allen who said, 'Most of life is showing up'? That's the hardest thing–getting people to show up. I shouldn't have planned a rally. I'm starting to lose interest. I'm disappointed that people talk about how mad they are, but then don't get their corpus in front of a home that's being taken." He takes a last look at Em-Do Woodstock, shaking his head. "I should've invited motorcycle gangs."
Labash also has grimly entertaining chats with malign city officials, who of course insist they mean no harm to the family whose farm they are taking:
As soon as [the city's public information officer Anne] Gordon finishes assuring me the township has no intention of cheating the Halpers, she tells me exactly how the township will likely cheat the Halpers. "There's going to be a tremendous chemical clean-up of that property," she says, adding that any clean-up costs will "unfortunately come off the top of their money." Gordon's never been on the property, nor does she know of any "definitive test" that's been done that would bear out her charges, but she speculates wildly. "Oil drums may be buried there. I don't have any evidence of that, but there may be people who do."
Just as an exercise–God forbid we jump to conclusions–I ask her to give me a rough guesstimate of how pricey this could get for the Halpers. Gordon grows coy. Of the tests that have already been run, she says, "I don't know what they show," therefore "I don't want to estimate, but somebody–and I don't know if it's accurate at all–said it could be $3 million. There's a feeling that there's been so much property damage on there we don't know about. Listen, I hope there's not."
The Halpers have finally been kicked off their land, after a series of events Labash chronicles tenaciously, and had been offered $4.3 million for land that private developers had offered $13.8 million for almost 10 years ago (lawsuits from the Halpers have gotten the amount due them bumped up to over $25 million, Labash reports, but they haven't gotten the cash yet).
The story's kicker? Justice David Souter is still in Logan Darrow Clements sights. Learning of a legal loophole that allows towns in New Hampshire to steal land not even within their town borders, as long as it's for an airport, Clements is now gearing up to launch the Lost Liberty Airport project.