Donald Trump has repeatedly endorsed the idea that government officials should have virtually unlimited power to seize private property via eminent domain. Trump has even praised the Supreme Court's notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, in which the majority opinion of liberal Justice John Paul Stevens' allowed a Connecticut municipality to bulldoze a working-class neighborhood on behalf of a speculative development scheme that was supposed to broaden the tax base while also benefitting the Pfizer corporation (that scheme turned out to be an utter failure).
What's more, Trump does not just talk the talk. In his real estate career, Trump repeatedly tried to profit from eminent domain abuse, such as when he joined forces with Atlantic City officials in the hopes of kicking an elderly widow out of her home in order to make way for a limousine parking lot for the nearby Trump Plaza hotel and casino (that eminent domain boondoggle was laughed out of court).
As voters head to the polls today in Iowa, it remains to be seen if Trump's embrace of eminent domain abuse will hurt his chances. Writing last week at The Washington Post, reporter Katie Zezima offers a few reasons why it might:
The topic could resonate in the first voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa, where companies have run into stiff opposition after floating the idea of using eminent domain for pipelines or other projects. Eminent domain is a particularly hot issue for many conservative and libertarian-leaning voters, who want to limit the power of government to encroach on personal property….
On Saturday, Trump…talked about how eminent domain was necessary in Pella, Iowa, where many landowners strongly oppose the prospect of the government taking land for a new regional airport.
Eminent domain is a contentious issue in other parts of Iowa as well. Last year, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said he supported the use of eminent domain for some pipeline projects. One proposal would carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from North Dakota, cutting across 18 Iowa counties. A $2 million transmission line to send wind energy from Iowa to Illinois also included the use of eminent domain; last year, the project was put on hold while the company behind it figures out how to move forward.
According to a 2014 Des Moines Register poll, 57 percent of Iowans favor the pipeline, but only 19 percent said eminent domain should be used to construct pipelines or power lines.
Will Trump's support for eminent domain abuse hurt him in today's Iowa caucus? We'll find out soon enough.
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