Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump, Ryan, and Walker Want to Seize Wisconsin Homes to Build a Foxconn Plant

State and local officials are doling out $4.5 billion and 1,000 acres to lure the Taiwanese manufacturing giant.

Powerful forces—including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R), the Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn, and President Donald Trump—have aligned, to turn more than 1,000 acres of Wisconsin farmland and family homes into an LCD screen manufacturing facility.

Reason visited the village of Mt. Pleasant to speak with homeowners facing the threat of eminent domain, and the local government officials responsible for acquiring the land on behalf of Foxconn, which is receiving $4.5 billion in subsidies and tax breaks. The project was sold to the public with a promise of 13,000 jobs and billions in additional tax revenue.

To assemble land for the project, local officials have already declared entire neighborhoods to be "blighted," with the goal of seizing homes with eminent domain, a legal term that typically describes the process of taking property from a private owner to facilitate a public use.

But what qualifies as a "public use?" In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut town of New London was justified in seizing the land of homeowner Susette Kelo to hand it over to the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on the grounds that it would spur economic development in an economically depressed area. The Pfizer project was never built, and the lot where Kelo's house once stood is empty and overgrown 13 years later. Public backlash led 43 states, including Wisconsin, to enact legislation protecting property owners from eminent domain for private projects.

With lawsuits planned, this project may test the strength of Wisconsin's post-Kelo law. Can public officials override the property rights of homeowners in pursuit of big development deals?

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Justin Monticello and Weissmueller. Additional graphics by Meredith Bragg.

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    So, they believe they can't find some empty space in Wisconsin?

    That beyond everything else makes it reek of bullshit to me.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Yes, plenty of it, but all inaccessible inside politicians' heads.

  • aajax||


  • BambiB||

    Two thoughts in my head on this:

    1) They're talking a deal worth $4500 million with what? A dozen families in the way? Why not offer them $2 million each, tax free (sale of home)? I think most would go for that. Even if there are 20 families to deal with, $40 million is round-off error on a $4,500 million dollar deal.

    2) The city council talks about eminent domain being their "final resort". For the citizens, courts are not the "final resort". The Second Amendment is the "final resort" against oppressive government. I wonder how many more of these steal-from-citizens-to-give-to-big-companies schemes would go down if one of the oppressed simply killed everyone involved in trying to take his home and every town council in America had to consider that as part of the equation in whether to destroy someone's home?

  • Demagogisimus||

    Good points, truly.

  • KimMahoney||

    There were 216 parcels of land to start. They secretly offered vacant land owners $50k per acre last summer (5-10 times the going rate for farmland). They literally made millionaires out of the vacant land owners with no threat of eminent domain. They then immediately served homeowners with small parcels of land with notices under eminent domain and offered 1.4 times "fair market value" based on appraisals by their hired appraisers. For us, the resulting offer is not enough for us to rebuild on a similar 1.2-acre lot in a similar neighborhood near our jobs, school and family. Because of the project, the cost of property and homes has skyrocketed. So, we are fighting for two reasons - 1. the amount they have offered will not make us whole; and 2. they don't have the right to set the price or pressure us into selling because this is not a public project.

  • Trainer||

    It's not Wisconsin; it's Mt. Pleasant. If they go somewhere else how are the city Powers That Be in Mt. Pleasant going to get their fair cut of helping this company that only wants to give people jobs to make that American dream of home ownership come true?

  • Heraclitus||

    You have to be near a population center to have employees. And this video does not mention how many people are fighting. Even rural areas have a few houses here and there.

  • Devastator||

    Let's not be naive. They are greedy and want to use the local infrastructure. They didn't pick this spot randomly. That aid they're pricks and hope that the court does something decent for once and tells the foreigners to build their factory in Taiwan or find a place with no house on it.

  • Rhywun||

    I suppose I have to click on the video to find out what Trump's involvement is?

  • Libertymike||

    Just a few seconds in....

    "its we have never seen before."

  • ||

    It's a broad kind of involvement. See, he's got a general policy of growing the economy and producing jobs the way Obama had a policy to grow green energy. So any use of eminent domain by anyone anywhere in order to grow the economy and produce jobs is the result of Trump's policy the same way wind farm and solar energy corporations using eminent domain to seize property and offer subsidies for green energy were the result of Obama's policy. Same same.

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    Yeh! You're so totally right! After all, only Mike Pence (not Trump) showed up to the announcement event. I mean Trump just said something in passing while flying over WI about building a Foxconn plant (according to Scott Walker, a known cuck)...he certainly didn't mean it. And its not like Trump tweeted about this deal and how it was an example of him going full out MAGA or anything. This is just another case of Reason going full TDS and blaming bad policies by anyone anywhere on Trump. I'm getting so sick of these libtard publications. For a publication called Reason, you think they would use some at some point!

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Exactly. I'm sure atrumo is happy Foxconn is building a plant in the US. As am I. I'm also sure that atrumo has zero info,event with precisely where the facility will be constructed, and probably doesn't care. Scott Walker may not even be the bad guy here. I imagine the local politicians that stand to lose out on a slice of that fat money cake are the ones putting the screws to these people to take their land. Which is wrong.

    That plant can be built a whole bunch of places. In fact, we have shitloads of appropriately zoned acreage where I live in eastern WA. So no reason it has to be built there.

  • Elias Fakaname||


    Fucking autocorrect.

  • ||

    After all, only Mike Pence (not Trump) showed up to the announcement event. I mean Trump just said something in passing while flying over WI about building a Foxconn plant (according to Scott Walker, a known cuck)...he certainly didn't mean it. And its not like Trump tweeted about this deal and how it was an example of him going full out MAGA or anything. This is just another case of Reason going full TDS and blaming bad policies by anyone anywhere on Trump.

    What part of "Same same" do you not understand?

  • Headache||

    Mad You are right.

    This is just another case of Reason going full TDS and blaming bad policies by anyone anywhere on Trump

    What do you expect from CNN's bastard step child?

  • Devastator||

    Trump is 100% behind this, he thinks the way to "making America great again" is to piss on property rights and fuck over people who can't afford to fight multibillion dollar corporation in court over a couple of acres of property. If you think Trump stands for anyone other than his buddies you really should pay attention.

  • some guy||

    Looking at a map I count about 50 homes on the development site, many of which look quite nice and hardly "blighted". With an estimated value of $200k per home that comes out to $10M to buy out everyone involved. Even if you have to pay a huge premium to some of the owners to get them to move it would still be chump change compared to total development costs. It would probably be cheaper to buy them out than to fight them in court, especially if you assume some organization will take the owners' case pro bono and tie things up for at least a few years. This use of eminent domain just seems like a big case of FYTW.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I suppose "blighted" does not mean anything to politicians other than "not being used for what benegits my interests". It certainly does not mean what normal people would think.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    In Wisconsin, "blighted" can also mean "we changed the zoning of the land your house is on from residential to industrial, so your brand new, pristine house is blighted."

  • ||

    In Wisconsin, "blighted" can also mean "we changed the zoning of the land your house is on from residential to industrial, so your brand new, pristine house is blighted."

    Actually, in Wisconsin (and large swaths of the nation) the definition of blighted doesn't even have to change. If you've got 50 acres, a pristine house, a pristine barn, and a run down barn, unless you've fully plumbed and insulated both barns and someone's lived in them for the past year, 2/3 of the structures on the property are vacant and unfit for human occupancy. If you've got a small pond with a woods on half the property because you like the woods and water, the property is underutilized. If you have to drive through underutilized woodland to get to the house, it's inaccessible.

    Look, they know blighted when they see it alright?

  • Zeb||

    That's insane. The whole notion of blighted property really needs to go. If the owner likes it that way, then fuck off.

  • Trainer||

    Not according to the skeevy lawyer who I'm sure sold his services in way that completely explained why this was a good idea.

  • ThanksForTheFish||

    I think the village tried to buy everyone out, and these are the leftovers.

    That said, the only worthwhile thing about Mt. Pleasant Wisconsin is O&H Kringle.

  • aajax||

    The thieves can't take the risk that someone might hold out just because they don't want to move and don't need the money. They have to show that mere citizens can't push the government around.

  • Heraclitus||

    The video does not say how much they were offered. Perhaps they were offered market value and the owners have been convinced to hold out for more because now that FOXCONN wants to build they have newly acquired leverage.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    By definition "market value" is the price at which a willing seller meets a willing buyer. It doesn't actually exist in eminent domain cases, they just pretend it does.

  • Devastator||

    I agree, they could triple the prices and people would jump on it.

  • KimMahoney||

    I have a brand new home in the main development area. Finished February 2017. The cost was about double your estimate. The estimated value, at least 2.5 times your estimate. But now go try to buy a similar lot and build a similar homes. Prices have skyrocketed. They could care less about making us whole - they just want to apply their same formula to everyone which is to make millionaires out of the vacant landowners by offering them 5-10 times the value of their land while only offering 1.4 times fair market value to homeowners based on their low-ball appraisals. Nobody wants to hold out. We want to get out of there. We just aren't willing to settle for less than what we saved and worked 9 years to get. Besides, this is not a public project and their formula is irrelevant. This should be a free market transaction and if they don't like our price, they can decide to leave us there. That is our risk to take, not theirs.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Is there any way to hold people accountable for falsely declaring a property blighted? It lowers the property value so that at least is a way to get them in court. Doing so for personal political gain and in violation of your office is likely illegal as well.

  • ThanksForTheFish||

    Yes, it's called an election.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, but odds are decent that the rest of the town is OK with taking those people's homes by shady means. It would be nice if there was some legal consequence for officials who blatantly misuse laws and regulations like that.

  • kevinq||

    "legal consequences"===tar and feathers

  • ||

    Considering he just said "accountable" and not to whom, murder could fit the requirements.

  • perlchpr||

    I guess it speaks as to the general politeness of American culture that something like Qualified Immunity can exist. If you ensure that the ballot box and jury box cannot be used to bring bad actors to justice, it would seem to significantly increase the likelihood that the cartridge box will be used instead. And yet we don't see that.

  • ||

    I guess it speaks as to the general politeness of American culture

    Contextually difficult if not impossible to distinguish politeness from cowardice from a degree of rationality. No amount of mowing down public officials is going to get your land back and the more of them you mow through the more likely it is that you're not doing so for yourself but for some abstract notions.

  • target||

    If no amount will get your land back, then why not be proactive before the land is taken? That may lead to other members voluntarily leaving their position.
    I just wonder why they can not vote in new board members to undo all the zoining changes, or are they outnumbered by the people who want new jobs and increased property values?

  • aajax||

    There's a lot of Republicans who are afraid they will see it. Scott Pruitt for one. At least one Senator is wearing body armor. If you shoot someone you know is wearing body armor, is it still a crime?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Election? Just hire The A Team. This story is basically a set up for their type B plot, I.e. crooked land developers bullying the townsfolk.

  • Miter Broller||

    Bring back tarring and feathering would be a nice start to get into the spirit of the whole thing. Then the next election cycle would just be a formality.

  • LibertarianScientist||

    These 18 families should all send a free copy of Stephen King's "Roadwork" to their government officials. Eventually somebody subject to these douchebag politicians will go postal on them.

  • Libertymike||

    Given that the term eminent domain is set forth in the context of the 5th amendment and that the latter is part of the Decalogue of the Bill of Rights, and given the language of the text, peeps like the IOJ should be arguing that unless a property owner consents to the proposed purchase, no deal.

    One of the sorriest arguments made in behalf of eminent domain is "what about the holdouts?" Yeah, what about them?

  • Tony||

    It wouldn't be eminent domain if it weren't compulsory. That's the whole point. You don't need a constitutional provision to let the government buy land on the open market.

  • KimMahoney||

    Thank you. IOJ would be all over this if we actually wanted to stay. We don't. We have been trying to sell since 3 days after we heard about the project on the news - yes, that is how we found out. The Village of Mount Pleasant is unwilling to negotiate. They have a set formula and they will not stray from it. That formula will not allow us to rebuild our brand new home on a similar 1.2-acre lot in a similar neighborhood near our jobs, school and family. Therefore, we say they cannot have it. They pay our price or leave us there - it is our risk to take.

  • kevinq||

    can you get this before a jury in any way? Jury nullification may be the only way to stop this.

  • dchang0||

    The involved politicians should voluntarily donate all of their land first, before seeking to take by force anyone else's land. But of course, it's the little people who get screwed first.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    I actually fantasize that a billionaire developer would intentionally work to eminent domain the land owned by the justices in the majority opinion on Kelo and these Mt. plesanant asses just so they could feel the sting of government overreach. Sigh...I need better fantasies.

  • perlchpr||

    It's a nice fantasy, to think of aristocrats having to suffer the same fate as they inflict upon their peasantry.

    Not very realistic, but it's a nice fantasy. I recall saying something very similar about Justice Kennedy's house shortly after Kelo was released.

  • SRoach||

    I, personally, hope FoxConn pulls out after everything's paid for, and leaves this community holding a very expensive bill.
    I, also, hope that each one of those councilmen, save one, finds himself homeless and penniless with no friends to turn to.

    If they want it so bad, they should offer to swap their own, I suspect, very nice homes, for these homes, but it's so much easier to tell someone else they have to sacrifice for The Cause.

  • Devastator||

    You can bet they aren't going to be penniless. Councilmen make next to no money; they make up for it under table though with the contacts and under the table deal that they get for being part of the government. You can bet their palms are being heavily greased for this activity of taking away peoples homes and giving them to FoxxConn

  • TorrentialDownpour||

    How does a MAGA person handle this? Do you stay with your beliefs and oppose Trump and the GOP leadership? Or do you abandon liberty in order to stay loyal?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Trump is for,having the Foxconn plant here in the US. I highly doubt he gives a shit exactly where they build it. As long as Walker's state gets it, then I doubt he cares exactly where it's built either.

    Reason has massive TDS. So they are eager to somehow make this,land grab en evil plot masterminded by Trump.

    It's not.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Exactly. The connection between the eminent domain and Trump is extremely indirect. Nothing Trump is asking for requires that the plant be built on land seized under eminent domain.

  • Heraclitus||

    True, but you are missing Torrential Downpour's point. Trump may not be masterminding this but he and Walker are politically profiting from this while at the same time peddling free-market tripe. It shows how massive hypocritical Trump and Republicans in general are.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    No, it doesn't. I doubt Trump has anything to do with where the plant is built. So he is in no position to be hypocritical or not. Unless he comes out publicly, praising the seizure of this particular property.

  • Devastator||

    No one said that, but it's obvious Trump has no respect for property rights and he thinks this is a great project even though they're reeming the local tax payers to make Wisconsin look better. He has used imminent domain in the past to build his real estate projects as well.

  • Whorton||

    It's simple, The state pays the people who are being forced to sell, what they feel the land is worth. Within reason of course, but they should receive a premium for being forced to sell their homes and the major inconvenience. I would venture at least 1.5 times its market value.

    They go away with a hansom profit, the states gets the land and hopefully the community gets a nice manufacturing facility for seven years until the company deems it not economical.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Finally, something the democrats and trump can see eye to eye on.

  • Longtobefree||

    And people wonder why the second amendment clearly states that citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, and that right cannot be infringed.

    First off, the militia should arrest the entire pile of 'local officials', and the Governor, for conspiracy to violate the property owner's constitutional rights. Then pile on bribery charges for them bribing the foreigners to plant their factory in a particular spot. I mean offering 4.5 million dollars to perform a certain action sounds like a bribe to me.

    The militia tribunal should fine each and every one of the 'local officials' the amount equal to their entire net worth, plus $500.00, and deport them to Taiwan. The governor should be fined his entire net worth, banned form all elective or appointed government positions, and deported to Taiwan.

    And colleges should be bastions of free speech and acceptance of all viewpoints.

  • ThanksForTheFish||

    If no one mobilized when Mt Pleasant built a large and unneeded city hall, when they built a grossly expensive and tricked out gun club for their cops, or when they...

    Well the point is that this area is okay with being abused by government officials.

  • Iheartskeet||

    God damn that is fucked up. Here's hoping for one of those infamous Trump flip flops, but as a RE developer, I quite doubt he has any hang ups with ED.

    Time to stoke another check to IOJ, but since they lost Kelo, I wonder if this is a lost cause, other than a PR offensive.

  • Juice||

    I love the two city councilors or whatever they are.

    "I was just doing my job." *shrug*

    "Those people aren't telling you the whole story. They're willing to part with their property, but only for what they think is 'fair value'."

    I think people who get into government must be a different species or something.

  • KimMahoney||

    One is the attorney hired by Mount Pleasant, the other a $240k/year consultant. Earlier this year, the attorney said that if they didn't use eminent domain, nobody would move. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. I love how he says "they" when he helped design the purchasing strategy. And you know what, we should get to set the price - this is not a public project. The risk is they leave us there and build around us, but that is our risk to take, not theirs.

  • aajax||

    Property rights? We don't need no stinkin' property rights.

  • geo||

    Even though the only party using eminent domain here is the local government, I guess the headline would not have gotten attention if it said

    "Village of Mount Pleasant possibly using eminent domain to buy homes at 40% over market value."

    I hate eminent domain too, but please, try not to conflate the dislike for Trump with local issues where Trump is not the cause, and the outcome is far from being decided. Since some landowners were paid $50,000 an acre perhaps these homeowners will end up with a good deal, or maybe, just maybe FoxConn will find a different location on some empty land where the parties are all in agreement.

  • KimMahoney||

    The problem is, it should not be Mount Pleasant buying the property and using the threat of eminent domain to do so. If Foxconn wants the land, it should be negotiating with homeowners. Mount Pleasant offered vacant land owners $50k per acre (5-10 times the fair market value of that property) while it is offering homeowners 1.4 times FMV based on low-ball appraisals from appraisers hired by the Village. While that formula gave some homeowners a nice profit from the sale of their home, other homeowners are having a hard time finding comparable replacement property for the amount the Village is offering. We are fighting because their offer will leave us over $200k short from being able to rebuild on a similar 1.2-acre lot in a similar neighborhood close to our jobs, school and family. We are also fighting because the use of eminent domain for this private development is just wrong.

  • FlameCCT||

    It is the legislative not executive that is allowing this to happen. We've all seen what happens when the executive uses their phone & pen instead of proper legislation; it is easily overturned by the next executive.

  • RenatoBR||

    Well, in Brazil the promise was to generate 100,000 jobs. It has 1,800 employees now.

  • SRoach||

    Okay. Three things you're missing.
    1. Each employee in a business that primarily trades with the outside still needs things like clothing, food, and medicine. So each direct employee contributes toward indirect employment. Because a factory has 100 workers, it may support an additional 300 shopkeepers in the area, selling to those workers and each other.
    2. Some of those jobs were probably never more than temporary. How many workers were hired to clear the land and build the factory? Did Foxconn promise the jobs would be permanent?
    3. When making promises to municipalities, developers, like politicians, are full of well digested grass.

  • Heraclitus||

    I'm not against eminent domain. And I am not against eminent domain to build factories. What I disagree with is that people should get massive profits from what the politicians argue is a public good. It contradicts their free-market rhetoric that they use during campaigns and then ditch as soon as they are safely elected. The wealthy investors get subsidized during the building phase and then protected through tax schemes and bankruptcy laws when their businesses lose. There is an illusion of risk for the investors. But when the politicians take away the risk the investors still get to keep their profits even though risk and profits, according to the free-market pundits, should be correlated.

  • Whorton||

    Actually, the state should have acquired the land free and clear BEFORE making the offer to the company. This coming back after the fact and pulling the ED crap is pretty limp. . .(forgive the pun.)

  • Ron||

    its yours until the government decides otherwise.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    This is a bit of a strawman because of the whole blighted thing, but ignoring that for the sake of a broader point...

    I know a lot of Wisconsinites from right in the area of Mt. Pleasant (because, you know, liquor). To a person they were all very excited about the possibility of Foxconn building a plant there.

    I got into a lot of conversations about it because I maintained it would never bring the promised benefits to the area and it likely would end up costing the taxpayers more money than any of them ever saw coming back to them individually as benefits.

    So, accepting my version of the facts as true, is this an example of people getting the government they want, good and hard, or should we be patronizing and say that government is the bad guy because, you know, libertarian...

  • Rockabilly||

    commies are all over the place, some commies don't even know they're commies so you have to tell them.

    John Locke tells us a man's property is for him only and not anyone else for he dug the earth with his own hands, etc.

    For someone else to force this man to forsake what's justly his is communism. You are either a free individual or part of a collective. The only collective that is just is a collective whose member volunteered. All other collectives are totalitarian.

    If the government tries to take your property, I would say the property owner would have the right to stop all transactions. If the court denies the stay, the owner has the right to use force to stop any transactions, seizures, etc.

  • KimMahoney||

    Thank you! We intend to fight the taking - not because we don't want to sell, but because they don't get to set the terms, and the terms they are offering will leave us well short of whole..

  • Sevo||

    RBG approves of this message.

  • dpbisme||

    Seems to me this is like most things.... A starting point for negotiations and not the SKI IS FALLING.

    The idiot LIBTARDS do not mind that the US looses about 1.3 to 1.5 HUNDRED BILLION a year in taxes because of Illegals.

    I feel free to multiply that by 8 and you will find that is a cost of over a Trillion Dollars in ten years.

    Then again LIBTARDS have never worried about wasting the Taxpayers money especially if it means they get their houses cleaned, painted, roofed, and children taken care of cheap... Not to mention the possibility of now voters.

  • Devastator||

    Why are you ranting about immigration when this is an article on imminent domain???

  • akita96th||

    You rant like an uneducated Trumpanzee moron.


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