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Eminent Threat?: An Analysis of Contributions to Property-Rights Ballot Measures 2006

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Abstract:

A wealthy real-estate magnate supported property-rights measures in seven of the 13 states in which they appeared in the 2006 election cycle. Although Howard Rich - a libertarian political activist from New York City - never gave directly, a web of groups he either controls or is affiliated with gave $6 million, more than two-thirds of the money raised to support the measures.

The 13 property-rights measures, which were on more ballots than any other issue in 2006, attracted $29.5 million in contributions, 70 percent of which was raised by the opponents. California's battle was by far the most expensive - the $18.2 million raised around Proposition 90 accounted for 61 percent of the total raised around all 13 measures. The prevalence of these measures on the 2006 ballots was largely the result of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Kelo v. New London. The Kelo decision ruled that local governments could use their power of eminent domain - the power to take private property away without the owner's consent - for the purpose of economic development. This ruling marked the first time the courts allowed governments to take private property for reasons other than the building of roads, schools, and other necessary infrastructure. The ruling also explicitly recognized the right of states to restrict the uses of eminent domain, which prompted the flurry of activity at the state level.