GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has taken fire from the right for his lack of foreign policy experience, his immigration proposals, and his apparent eagerness to insult women. Now a conservative free-enterprise advocacy group has attacked him for his views on a more esoteric subject: eminent domain, long held up by conservatives as an example of government overreach.
The Club for Growth launched a $1 million ad buy in Iowa this week that in part attacks the real estate mogul on his support for the practice, in which the government is able to take private property for public use. “Trump supports eminent domain abuse,” the ad says. “Because he can make millions while we lose our property rights.”
The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comments on the ad. But Trump had already ridiculed the group publicly after he said it requested a large donation.
The president of the pathetic Club For Growth came to my office in N.Y.C. and asked for a ridiculous $1,000,000 contribution. I said no way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 2, 2015
The group also launched an ad attacking Trump’s “very liberal” record on taxes, bailouts, and health care. But other conservatives have seized on its criticism of Trump’s position on eminent domain.
“[Trump’s support of eminent domain] strikes me as a potential serious weakness for Trump, as it’s just about impossible to square Trump’s view on the issue with conservatism, limited government, or, ahem, freedom and liberty,” wrote Jim Geraghty in the conservative National Review. “Has any Trump fan articulated an argument in favor of state and local governments claiming private property and turning it over to wealthy developers? Isn’t that just about the clearest case of big government run amok and crony capitalism?”
Trump‘s attempts to enlist government assistance in acquiring private property in order to expand his real estate empire is well documented. The most famous case came when he successfully convinced the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to invoke eminent domain to seize the house of a widow in Atlantic City in order to build a parking lot for limousines at his casino.
After the US Supreme Court upheld an expansive view of eminent domain in 2005, Trump lauded the decision. “I happen to agree with it 100 percent,” he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto in 2005. “Not that I would want to use it.” His rationale was that this was a simple case of doing what is best for the greatest number of people. He said, “If you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and government, whether it’s local or whatever, government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and make [an] area that’s not good into a good area, and move the person that’s living there into a better place—now, I know it might not be their choice—but move the person to a better place and yet create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.”
And sometimes, it was also very good for Donald Trump.