The idea that the government can condemn private property for what it views as the public good has been a source of contention for years. But when the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 in Kelo v. New London that the city in Connecticut could use its powers of eminent domain to take private land for another private development, a new national debate raged.
John McCain latched on to the issue for a while. In August, he pledged “To appoint strict constructionist judges who respect the Constitution and understand the security of private property it provides. If need be, I would seek to amend the Constitution to protect private property rights in America.”
On his Web site, he is circulating petition to gain support for this stance.
After the Kelo decision, the Arizona senator signed on as one of 32 cosponsors of a bill that would exclude economic development as a justifiable reason for governments to condemn private property.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee hasn’t been as vocal on the subject. He did however, challenge the Iowa governor’s veto of a state law to make it more difficult for local governments to condemn private property for economic development.
“When government takes private property for the benefit of private entities and individuals that is really a threshold that once we cross we have a hard time getting back,” he told the Associated Press.
But representatives of urban interests in the state denounced the bill. The Iowa League of Cities hailed the veto, saying, “The bill unnecessarily restricts Iowa’s climate for economic improvement.”
Ron Paul has indeed made an issue out of eminent domain. After the Supreme Court ruling, he wrote “We find ourselves increasingly enslaved by petty bureaucrats at every level of government. The anger engendered by the Kelo case certainly resonates on this holiday based on rebellion against government.But he chose not to vote on the House resolution passed shortly after the ruling which expressed “grave disapproval“ of the ruling. He was, however, a cosponsor of some recent bills that would have provide relief to property holders.The year before Kelo, he was a cosponsor of a short lived bill called the “Eminent Domain Relief for the Little Guy Act.” It would have offered tax relief to property owners within a certain tax bracket who have had eminent domain leveraged over their property.After the ruling, he also signed onto legislation that would have denied some federal money to states and localities that use eminent domain for private development. Although that bill gained 112 cosponsors, it never made it to a vote.Still, the attention to the issue paid by the Republican candidates isn’t enough to placate some. The American Spectator argues: “With the GOP candidates each trying to ‘out-conservative’ the others, it’s hard to figure why none would truly focus attention on an issue that finds something like 100 percent approval with the party’s conservative base.”