Donald Trump’s Eminent-Domain Empire

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Don’t be fooled by The Donald. Take it from one who knows: I’m a South Jersey gal who was raised on the outskirts of Atlantic City in the looming shadow of Trump’s towers. All through my childhood, casino developers and government bureaucrats joined hands, raised taxes and made dazzling promises of urban renewal. Then we wised up to the eminent-domain thievery championed by our hometown faux free-marketeers.

America, it’s time you wised up to Donald Trump’s property redistribution racket, too.

Trump has been wooing conservative activists for months and flirting with a GOP presidential run — first at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and most recently at a tea party event in South Florida. He touts hisbusiness experience, “high aptitude” and “bragadocious” deal-making abilities. But he’s no more a standard-bearer of conservative values, limited government and constitutional principles than the cast of “Jersey Shore.”

Too many mega-developers like Trump have achieved success by using and abusing the government’s ability to commandeer private property for purported “public use.” Invoking the Fifth Amendment takings clause, real estate moguls, parking garage builders, mall developers and sports palace architects have colluded with elected officials to pull off legalized theft in the name of reducing “blight.” Under eminent domain, the definition of “public purpose” has been stretched like Silly Putty to cover everything from roads and bridges to high-end retail stores, baseball stadiums and casinos.

While casting himself as America’s new constitutional savior, Trump has shown reckless disregard for fundamental private property rights. In the 1990s, he waged a notorious war on elderly homeowner Vera Coking, who owned a little home in Atlantic City that stood in the way of Trump’s manifest land development. The real estate mogul was determined to expand his Trump Plaza and build a limo parking lot — Coking’s private property be damned. The nonprofit Institute for Justice, which successfully saved Coking’s home, explained the confiscatory scheme:

“Unlike most developers, Donald Trump doesn’t have to negotiate with a private owner when he wants to buy a piece of property, because a governmental agency — the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority or CRDA — will get it for him at a fraction of the market value, even if the current owner refuses to sell.

Here is how the process works.

“After a developer identifies the parcels of land he wants to acquire and a city planning board approves a casino project, CRDA attempts to confiscate these properties using a process called ‘eminent domain,’ which allows the government to condemn properties ‘for public use.’ Increasingly, though, CRDA and other government entities exercise the power of eminent domain to take property from one private person and give it to another. At the same time, governments give less and less consideration to the necessity of taking property and also ignore the personal loss to the individuals being evicted.”

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  • GypsyTyger

    Thank you for writing this. Trump has some good qualities,like his willingness to speak his mind and the fact that he's so arrogant he doesn't kowtow to Letterman, Rosie etal. He expects them to kowtow to him and his outbursts about Rosie and Obama are refreshing and fun to watch. But at bottom he's a rich, arrogant pompous ass who doesn't give a damn about anything but what he wants. I knew about Vera Coking and that's what everybody who's hopping on his bandwagon needs to think about. They're pushing him hard over at the Breitbart sites.They should read your last paragraph as a refresher.

  • waterwillows

    Trump might be good at making money and his fortune certainly says so. But he'll not make a good President.
    That takes a different kind of internal strength than coin building.

  • Steve

    So, Michelle, who do you want to see as the GOP nominee? And don't tell us your person would be great, because of their philosophy, but needs to show more of the Trump like courage and aggressiveness that will be necessary to win the political war in 2012( that will be more intense and viscious than any in our Republic's history).

    • Ralph

      Trump-like courage? Yeah, it takes real courage to get somebody else to drag some old lady out of her home.

  • Steve

    "waterwillows": But the GOP candidate has to win. It takes skill and a lifetime of experience in the public eye shoving back when pushed. It doesn't make a skilled politician, but the times demand a differnt kind of excellence. (I do not think it's an exaggeration to reference Churchill's unique skills to rally a nation at its darkest hour during the blitz….and what a self important blowhard arrogant a-hole he was…and this was the foundation of his unique strength). If not Trump, who?

  • waterwillows


    Churchill might have been a self important blowhard arrogant a-hole; but he was the Lord's blowhard. That is what makes all the difference. The Lord advised against the election of Obama and things now are as they are. Even if it was by election fraud.
    Only leaders that have the mandatory blessings, or permission from Him will do well.

    I am still looking for the right man to step forth. I have not yet heard of who wishes to be in the running other than Trump, who is unsuitable.
    There has been much talk about possibles, but do you know of who has stepped forth?

    • scum

      No election fraud.

  • Truthteller

    WELL WELL WELL!!! Finally Malkin talks some sense. But it's funny that she says the 'reviled Kelo v. City of New London' decision. The theft of private property by big business and property developers has continued unabated for years, BY THE FU**KING RIGHT WING. But while for Malkin this is only a minor unpleasant truth about Trump, for the rest of this, this is a key to the whole problem. The courts generally have sided againt the people in most cases of eminent domain, whether it's in NYC, CT, or elsewhere. I just wish she would truly understand the depth of the situation.

  • Dez

    MM said <<roads and bridges to high-end retail stores, baseball stadiums and casinos.>>

    We need some new roads and bridges. Retail stores and stadiums and casinos sounds like jobs. It happens that when roads, are built, houses and business in the path are moved/relocated. To focus on a single individual or circumstance in a vision of national recovery can mire down any progress and thwart achieving the goal.
    Trump knows business, and business of whats happening to America has lit a fire under his arse. I'm looking but I don't see any dynamic candidate to take on the job that's not already a cog in the political wheel.

  • Jim

    The entire business dominated establishment has reduced the lower half of this country to poverty. They have engaged in the greatest transfer of property and well being up the ladder to them selves.They have destroyed opportunity They have funded La Raza and and their racist idea that this land is theirs and the gringos and every one else should get out. The business community has caused the most massive recession in the country's history with their fraudulent dark economy and criminal deregulation of the banking system which has allowed them to steal the very lively hoods of the American people. Then they have the nerve to turn around and blame every body but them selves. They created a massive financial mess that enabled O'Bama and his gangsters to take over the country and collude with Wall Street
    like the pigs and farmers in Orwell's "Animal Farm".
    The RNCS seem to be attacking Donald Trump ;that makes Donald look like a great candidate. The RNCS have the finest roster of failures they ever wanted us to vote for.
    Business has created class warfare it is time sign up . You have nothing to lose but your unemployment. Democracy not Oligarchy. Now!

  • Amused

    The Donald has made his "Public Confession " -He'a BIRTHER , thereby getting the BLESSING of the Loon controlled Republican party . Eminient Domain ? Screwing the public out of land ….ha ….a mere bag of shells ,to be handily overlooked . And THIS from the same hypocrites who screech that Obama is trying to redistribute wealth ….lol….nobody does that better than The Donald .
    LOL…..this 2012 election promises to be a real circus .After all Trump is NYC's greatest B.S, Artist , and will fit in well with the republican agenda .

    • scum

      And remember, no one played 'bankruptcy' better than The Donald in the 80s. The last 25 years, by every imaginable standard, we have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle to the upper. Horowitz complains about Obama wanting to redistribute wealth, forgetting to mention that it's already happened – in the other direction. What's incredible is that presumably there are middle class readers of FPM that are willing to push the final nail in their own coffin, just a little deeper….

  • Amused

    BTW , also at that Tea Party [Koch Bros.Sponsored ] rally in S.Carolina , over half of the interviewed participants stated they would vote for Trump . Yea I can see how the Republican Party …."seems " to be attacking Trump …yea riiiiiiight .

  • GKC

    Fat cats-All of 'em.

  • scum

    Oh, the GOP in 2012is going to be hilarious to watch. Almost as funny as the asinine question proferred during the hearings for the next Chairman of the Republican Party. Remember: "How many guns do you own?" Poor Steele didn't own one….

  • Amused

    The Donald played the birther card , and if he runs , he's gonna have to eat it , and that will be funny to watch .