The Eminent Domain of Congress
June 30, 2005
Don’t bet that last week’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling which allows government to steal individuals’ private property is now “the law of the land”. The Court may have granted license to a slew of often corrupt local governments, and their lackey development authorities, to swipe private property from the “little people”, but only Congress can give them the money to actually do it.
The Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London is an invitation to take a close, and hard, look behind the curtain of legal mumbo-jumbo that brings Connecticut closer to being a colony of King George III than a free state in “the last best hope of man on earth”.
In 1998 pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (the boys who brought you Viagra) decided to build its Global Research & Development headquarters on a state-owned 24 acre site in New London, CT. So, they “bought” the site from the state and built the facility...with over $100 million in federal and state subsidies. Coincidently, the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) was also formed around this time.
The 90 acre “Fort Trumbull” neighborhood surrounding Pfizer’s new “world headquarters” left the corporation less than impressed...it was “working class”. There was no way the new big boys on the block from Pfizer, flush with billions from the success of Viagra, were going to drive their BMW’s to work through this neighborhood (little blue pills were one thing, but little blue collar people were another). It was time for Pfizer (big business) and the city of New London (big government) to team-up and re-invent Fort Trumbull.
If big business and big government could replace 90 acres of working class schleps with 90 acres of “...a hotel, private office space, high-income private housing, and other unspecified development projects that will enhance...Pfizer”, it would be a win-win for the big guys. That grimy machine called big government would win because it could increase its tax revenues with a “more valuable” alternative to the blue collar neighborhood. And...big business wins because Pfizer enhances the value of its holdings and, a slew of already super wealthy developers could swoop down on the neighborhood and pick it cleaner than a seagull.
The catchall phrases “big government” and “big business” encompass more than just the city of New London and Pfizer. This genre of “blight removal” includes riches for developers, lobbyists, attorneys, consultants, political hacks and, as we shall see, a festering of quasi-governmental agencies and their army of career vultures who need tax dollars to stay fat. When you are talking over a billion dollars, what’s the value of a few middleclass citizens foolhardy enough to believe that their home was their castle. For that matter...what’s the value of the Constitution.
For the purpose of redeveloping the “blight” that was once the proud, yet middleclass, Fort Trumbull neighborhood; the city of New London vested its total authority to NLDC...which the media keeps describing as a “private” company. This is as much a lie as calling the American Red Cross a “private” company. The NLDC is a 501(c)(3) NON-PROFIT CHARITY. Its latest IRS filing, Form 990, with an employer identification number of 06-0995362 is living proof.
In its 2003 filing, the NLDC discloses total revenue of $8,560,308.00. Of that $8.5 MILLION, $7,941,701.00 comes from “Government Contributions”. Imagine that...the “private” company responsible for stealing homes from middleclass taxpayers is not only: (1) a NON-PROFIT CHARITY; (2) TAX FREE; (3) able to accept TAX DEDUCTABLE CONTRIBUTIONS, BUT...also over 93% FUNDED WITH YOUR TAX DOLLARS. Don’t worry; NLDC’s CEO is paying himself over $80,000 of your tax dollars annually to displace middleclass homeowners.
From the list of NLDC’s highest paid employees, I randomly picked Miguel Matos, a program manager, who is paid nearly $80,000 annually. Matos business address is in Hartford, CT even though he works for the New London Development Corporation. And how do we know this?
A quick Google of Matos revealed that he is a member of the Local Advisory Committee of the Hartford chapter of LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) which bills itself as “the nation's largest non-profit community development financial intermediary...that will transform distressed neighborhoods into thriving communities”.
Matos is also a Board member of CCEDA (Capital City Economic Development Authority). CCEDA defines itself as “a quasi-public agency under Section 1-120 of the General Statutes, CCEDA is a body politic and corporate, and an instrumentality of the State of Connecticut”.
In 2003, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG) listed Matos as “Fannie Mae's community development manager for New England”. HFPG also listed Matos as a private consultant whose services are available as follows: “Hourly Rate: $50-$150, Daily Rate: $750”. And Matos lists as a client reference the New London Development Corporation. Matos also discloses a “Description of Consultation: Housing Development” and a “Date of Consultation: Ongoing”.
Matos wears many hats and they all say “I bleed the taxpayer for income”. His board memberships and overlapping professional gray areas remind me of the interlocking directorates prevalent during the Trust Busting era and the financial conflicts in the Age of Enron. BUT...he is stereotypical of the conspiratorial cabal comprising the mutual interests of big business, big government, quasi -public agencies and “non-profit” development (?) companies. Their mutual interest is taking your tax dollars and, apparently, even your home.
Now that the Judicial branch has had its say in Kelo v. New London, it really is time for the Executive and Legislative branches to step up to the old “checks and balances” plate.
For starters, the IRS should, at the least, review the non-profit status of NLDC as a charity. Better yet, the IRS should audit all of NLDC’s finances and activities...especially with an eye towards the regulatory prohibition against lobbying imposed on “charities”.
Both the state of Connecticut and the federal government should launch investigations into every aspect of potential conflicts of interest between people working for this project in their “official” capacities and, simultaneously, working for themselves.
How can average citizens ever be free, and secure in their property, with a conglomerate of big government-big business interests working against them. Over 10,000 other properties nationwide are facing a similar threat and now the list is growing. Who can fight such a leviathan?
And with 95% of the respondents who took an impromptu poll from the Hartford Courant not supporting the Supreme Court's ruling to expand the government's power to seize homes for economic development, it is certainly time for both the state and federal legislatures to jump in.
If the “will of the people” isn’t the “eminent domain” of Congress, than I just give up. Since nobody, other than: liberals on the Supreme Court; a few powerful vested interests; and some trough-feeding bureaucrats, wants the present Fort Trumbull residents displaced...let the legislature yank the funding for this project. Tax dollars fund: the NLDC; the millions in corporate tax subsidies and the project seed money. It is incumbent upon the legislature to listen to the people. The Court may license eminent domain, but only the legislature can fund it. Or is your home the development castle of big business-big government?