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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Follow the Money

Not being a constitutional scholar, I can't really argue one way or the other for the Kelo decision, but the result seems clear enough: we have taken The Road to Serfdom to its logical conclusion. The government owns all the land. The government is kind enough to lease the land to us serfs who pay property tax. If the government can get higher revenues from someone else, they can and will force us off of "their" property that they were loaning to us (for the ever nebulous "just compensation") and transfer that property to said someone else. We serfs have limited recourse. Perhaps we can vote the politicians who exercise the eminent domain laws out of office. But in the meantime, we have to take whatever the government is willing to give us and then we have to pack our bags and get out.

Since about 70% of families own their own home, it wasn't lost on Congress that abuse of eminent domain by local governments wasn't going to be a big vote getter:
The House voted yesterday to use the spending power of Congress to undermine a Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to force the sale of private property for economic development purposes. Key members of the House and Senate vowed to take even broader steps soon.

Last week's 5 to 4 decision has drawn a swift and visceral backlash from an unusual coalition of conservatives concerned about property rights and liberals worried about the effect on poor people, whose property is often vulnerable to condemnation because it does not generate a lot of revenue.

The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. Historically, eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways or airports.

So let's consider who voted against this measure. One such person is Nancy Pelosi:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the measure. "When you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court, you are in fact nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court," she told reporters. "This is in violation of the respect of separation of powers in our Constitution."

When I first read this, I wondered, "what on earth is she talking about?" Not choosing to fund local and state governments is violating "the respect of separation of powers in our Constitution?" The Supreme Court decision didn't say that governments are required to confiscate property, only that they may. Since Ms. Pelosi's statement made no sense to me, I immediately wondered if there are other motivations for Ms. Pelosi's passionate defense of the Supreme Court decision.

Let's consider an eminent domain case in Ms. Pelosi's district:

The city of Oakland, using eminent domain, seized Revelli Tire and the adjacent property, owner-operated Autohouse, on 20th Street between Telegraph and San Pablo avenues on Friday and evicted the longtime property owners, who have refused to sell to clear the way for a large housing development.
Will Collier at vodkapundit did some digging and found:

The properties in question were seized to make room for the "Uptown Project," which is intended to replace under performing properties (at least in tax collection terms) with pricey condos.

I did a little Googling and found out that the prime contractor for the Uptown Project is Forest City Residential West, Inc. Forest City Residential West's co-chairmain of the board is Albert B. Ratner.

Ratner donated $1,000 to Nancy Pelosi in the 2004 election cycle. He and various other people named Ratner and identified as working for Forest City also gave thousands more to the the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over the last few elections ...

And Mr. Collier ends with the following conclusion:

Everybody knows politicians can be bought. Who knew they came so cheap?

I did! I did! I did! Follow the money and you can bet on the politician's vote.

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