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By: Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

NEILLSVILLE - Like a lot of farmers in this Republican patch of northern Wisconsin, Mark McGuire is feeling some pain from the Trump tariffs and the trade war they’ve fueled.

But he’s also a supporter of President Donald Trump, so he’s hoping the trade fight leads to a better deal for the U.S. in the long run.  

“It’s hurting,” said McGuire, interviewed at the county fair in rural Clark County, which voted for Trump by 32 points in 2016. “But I’m still for (Trump). He knows how to wheel and deal. I am hoping, in the end, we come out on top … (but) it’s going to hurt in between.”

In farm-and-factory states such as Wisconsin, tariffs are a midterm election wild-card, complicated by confounding political crosscurrents and the economic impact on Wisconsin products such as motorcycles, cranberries and cheese.

Wisconsin registered voters weigh in on tariffs and free trade
Republican voters used to be more supportive of free trade than Democrats, but now the reverse is true in Wisconsin and elsewhere. That trend has been boosted by President Donald Trump’s criticism of trade deals. On the Trump tariffs, Democrats in Wisconsin are overwhelmingly negative while Republicans, especially pro-Trump voters, tend to view them positively.

Do you think raising tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. will help the U.S. economy or hurt the U.S. economy?

RepublicansDemocratsIndependentsPro-Trump votersAnti-Trump voters0102030405060708090100453223127810245422502524108011
Don't know/NA
Notes: The results on the tariff question are based on polling by Marquette Law School in June and July 2018. Some percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.

In general, do you think that free trade agreements between the 
U.S. and other countries have been a good thing or a bad thing for the United States?

RepublicansDemocratsIndependentsPro-Trump votersAnti-Trump votersCity of MilwaukeeMilwaukee TV market(minus city)Madison TV marketGreen Bay TV marketNorthern and westernWisconsinPublic employee, unionhouseholdPublic employee,non-union householdPrivate employee, unionhouseholdPrivate employee,non-union household0102030405060708090100364716523216393822355214503217483418453916463619404216414216433918433720345215463816
Don't know/NA

Many of those feeling the fallout are Trump voters. Will tariffs cut into the GOP base or will these voters stand by the president and his party?

Meanwhile, politicians on both sides are offering voters mixed messages on trade.

Up for re-election, U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin supports tariffs against China but not against the European Union, Canada and Mexico.  

“I’m not against tariffs. (But) these have been haphazard. They haven’t been smart,” Baldwin said in an interview while visiting a paper mill in Combined Locks Friday.

Her potential GOP opponents, Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson, say they want a world with no tariffs. But they are backing the Trump tariffs as a bargaining chip.

The result is that the Senate candidate who is philosophically “pro-tariff” argues the Trump tariffs go too far. And the ones who want a world “without tariffs” support the president’s tariffs.

Muddying the waters even more, voters in the two parties are experiencing a long-term inversion on trade. Republicans were once more supportive of free trade. Now they are more skeptical. The reverse is true of Democrats.

Almost 80% of Democratic voters in Wisconsin think the Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum will hurt the U.S. economy in polling this year by the Marquette Law School; only 12% think they will help.

GOP voters are far more divided, but their views are more positive than negative: 45% say the tariffs will help the economy and 32% say they will hurt.

Overall, there is little question the tariffs are unpopular in Wisconsin right now: only 28% of registered voters say they’ll help while 56% say they will hurt.

And there is little question that many people are feeling some pain.

In town meetings in his very Republican southeastern Wisconsin district, GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has heard business people vent. A maker of kitchenware told him in June the tariffs had cost him $150,000 so far and “real families are being crushed.” Another manufacturer complained in Brookfield last month that the tariffs were going to cost him $500,000.

“If I can’t get my customers to accept a 7% to 8% price increase for absolutely no reason at all, and lose that much money … I will have to start letting (employees) go,” said John Perdue, whose company makes electronic industrial controls in Menomonee Falls.

In an interview, Sensenbrenner said, “people are unhappy” and “an awful lot of manufacturers are suffering.” He has joined in letters of protest to the White House and has co-sponsored legislation by GOP Congressman Mike Gallagher of Green Bay (and opposed by the Trump administration) to limit the president’s authority to set certain tariffs.

Democratic Congressman Ron Kind of La Crosse is a co-sponsor of the same bill. He has been holding trade forums in his rural western Wisconsin district to highlight the costs of the tariff policy.

“The impact is real. No one likes it and everyone is hoping for a quick resolution,” Kind said of the falling prices that many farmers are seeing because of retaliatory tariffs.  

"I always thought the administration was underestimating the overall consequences of what they're doing with this trade war," Kind said. 

But on both sides, politicians are being pulled in competing directions.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker, up for re-election, has long been a conventionally pro-trade Republican, which typically carries with it huge skepticism toward tariffs. But like many in his party, he is averse to openly clashing with Trump. Asked several times in an interview Saturday if he thought the Trump tariffs were bad policy or harmful to Wisconsin, Walker’s only criticism was indirect.

“I think tariffs in general are not a good policy,” said Walker. 

Democrat Baldwin has a much different history on trade. She has criticized past trade deals with other countries and defends tariffs as a legitimate tool against unfair trade practices by other countries.

But her rhetoric on the Trump tariffs is also mixed.

“I think that tariffs and countervailing duties are very important tools in going after cheating,” she said in an interview, calling China the “main culprit” in cheating.  

But she said, “I cannot understand why this president has decided to include Canada, Mexico and the European Union in the steel and aluminum tariffs. I don’t see the evidence that they are playing the same way that China is.”

When Trump ripped Harley-Davidson again in a tweet Sunday, Baldwin responded on Twitter that Wisconsin businesses “need better trade deals, not tweets and trade wars.”

But for the most part, Baldwin’s openness to tariffs has made her a less vocal critic of Trump’s trade policies than the state’s Republican U.S. senator, the free-market conservative Ron Johnson.  

Johnson backs legislation to limit Trump’s tariff powers and told reporters in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol recently that the Trump policy of setting tariffs and then offering federal aid to compensate farmers hurt in the trade war smacked of a “Soviet-type of economy.”

“Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” said Johnson in comments quoted by Politico. “I’m very exasperated.”

The irony is that voters in Johnson’s party are now more pro-tariff and more negative about trade than voters in Baldwin’s party. 

That shift has been fueled by a Democratic president (Barack Obama) who backed trade deals and a GOP president (Trump) who now attacks them.

“The support (among Democratic voters) for trade agreements went up under the Obama administration when we had a Democratic administration promoting that. And for now, it’s continuing to rise because Trump is viewed as anti-trade,” said Kind, a “pro-trade” Democrat who has historically clashed with labor unions in his own party over his support for expanded trade.

“The real civil war (on trade) that’s going on right now is in the Republican Party. Where do they go?” said Kind.

The turnout Saturday for a GOP campaign event for Walker in Plover included Anthony J. Kizewski, a potato and soy bean farmer wearing a Trump T-shirt and a “Make America Great Again” cap. Kizewski predicted the tariffs would lead to improved trade in the long run despite short-term pain.

“We’re willing to accept it for the betterment of the country,” he said of the fallout. “It’s about time we had someone fighting for us.”

In Republican Clark County in north central Wisconsin, several farmers at the county fair said they are giving Trump the benefit of the doubt right now on his tariff policy.

Some noted that the problems facing dairy farmers — including an over-supply of milk — predate the tariffs. 

Others said they are hoping the trade wars lead to a better deal for U.S. farmers — soon.

“I don’t know how it comes out, like everybody,” said Brian Begert, who has a dairy farm with 500 cows and said farmers in the upper Midwest were being targeted by China for retaliatory tariffs because they’re seen as part of Trump’s support base.

“I don’t like everything that (Trump) does, but I do think that he loves the country and (the system) does need fixing,” he said.

“He’s a lot smarter than I am,” said Begert. “I just hope he knows what he’s doing.”

Listening to those whom I represent has always been a top priority. I have made great efforts to be responsive to constituent mail and phone calls, and have held over 100 in-person town hall meetings every year. I also enjoy traveling around the district participating in community events when I’m not in Washington voting. These are the best ways in which I can keep in touch and learn about the concerns of the people I represent.  

Another tool I utilize to hear what’s on the minds of my constituents is my annual survey that is mailed to households in the Fifth District. This year, I heard from over 3,000 respondents from Dodge, Jefferson, Milwaukee, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties. Here are some highlighted results, along with updated information about progress we are making.

The survey results indicate a vast majority rate the economy as excellent, good, or fair. Nearly 60 percent are supportive of the administration’s efforts to roll back federal government regulation. When asked about the greatest challenge facing families, more than half said, “rising prices of consumer goods.” The House of Representatives shared these sentiments this Congress when Republicans passed the largest tax cuts in over thirty years, allowing taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money. In fact, more than half of respondents indeed support the tax cuts, and when we return to Washington in a few weeks, we will continue our efforts to make these tax cuts permanent.

Turning to the opioid epidemic, we surveyed the favored approach to curbing this crisis. Over 40 percent specifically chose a combination of investing in treatment and recovery programs and increasing criminal penalties for those who break the law.  I have been a leader on both of these approaches. I authored the landmark 2015 House version of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by then President Obama. Seeing it fully funded is at the top of my priority list when Congress reconvenes. 

In addition, with the input from residents of the Fifth Congressional District who have firsthand knowledge of the heartbreak of opioid addiction, I have introduced the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act, which will give law enforcement better tools to fight one of the new leading causes of opioid-related deaths – fentanyl and its analogues. These analogues are compounds that have been slightly altered on a chemical level, but are still lethal and fall into a legal loophole.

Over half of the respondents support building a physical barrier along our southern border and utilizing other forms of technology, such as drones and lasers, where a wall is not practical. My bill, the BUILD WALL Act, would do just this by using funds seized from drug cartels to secure the border.

Regarding gun safety, 80 percent support increased funding for the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). I have consistently fought to strengthen NICS throughout my career, including last year when I threw my support behind the Fix NICS Act. NICS is one important tool for keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and those deemed by a court to be a threat to society.

Other interesting results worth noting are that 72 percent believe we should renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 80 percent support funding re-entry programs for prisoners, and 46 percent support fixing our labor shortage by focusing on career and technical education in K-12 schools.

Thank you to all who took the time to send in their surveys. Please continue communicating your concerns and letting me know what’s on your mind.

The Week

August 9, 2018

By: National Review Editors

• Poor Barack Obama — even his presidential library wasn’t shovel-ready.

• “Medicare for all,” Bernie Sanders’s plan to nationalize the American health-care system, would cost at least $32.6 trillion over ten years, according to a study by Charles Blahous at the libertarian Mercatus Center. A few points of comparison are in order for that humongous figure. In the 2018 fiscal year, federal expenditures will be $4.1 trillion. Federal revenue will be $3.6 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office projects the federal deficit to total $12.4 trillion over the next ten years. Adding $3.26 trillion per year in health-care spending to the federal budget, then, would swell government spending by almost 80 percent, require massive increases in individual and corporate tax rates, and probably still add trillions of dollars to our already unsustainable national debt. And this is with a charitable estimate: The Mercatus study granted Sanders’s highly dubious assumptions regarding provider and pharmaceutical costs. Under more realistic assumptions, Blahous estimated that the plan would cost an additional $5 trillion over ten years. When Sanders rolled out the proposal months ago, he ignored the question of cost. Now we know why.

• Michael Cohen has reportedly alleged that Don Jr. told his father about his infamous meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Don Jr. never should have taken the meeting, and the White House never should have issued, at Trump’s direction, a dishonest statement obscuring what it was really about. But, as far as we know, the meeting came to nothing. The problem now is that Don Jr. told Congress he didn’t inform his father about the meeting, and if that’s provably false (of course, Cohen is not exactly a reliable witness himself), he faces legal jeopardy. Special-counsel investigations usually end up focused on process crimes, and the best rule for people ensnared in them is to tell the truth, no matter how inconvenient or embarrassing it may seem at the time.

• An effort spearheaded by members of the House Freedom Caucus to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been put on hold (Representative Mark Meadows, R., N.C., was the prime mover; Representative Jim Jordan, R., Ohio, who wants to be speaker, was among the co-sponsors). The articles of impeachment accused Rosenstein of withholding documents from Congress and of appointing Robert Mueller special counsel. Calling for impeachment was a stunt: Speaker Paul Ryan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposed the move; there was no way two-thirds of the Senate would have convicted; and Trump has the power to fire Rosenstein at any time. Trump and his admirers would ideally like to see the Mueller investigation end. But second-best, in their minds, is using it as a punching bag. The blows will continue, in other forms.

• A crowd at a Trump rally heckled CNN reporter Jim Acosta during one of his live shots. This is uncivil and untoward, and Trump should stop talking about the press (“enemy of the people”) as if he were about to liquidate the kulaks. The abuse of Acosta is largely for show — other reporters note that when the cameras are off, rallygoers shake his hand and ask for autographs — but the president shouldn’t be raising the temperature when emotions are already so high. That said, the media have earned the contempt Republicans have for them. Acosta is a particular offender, a performer whose journalism largely consists of asking argumentative questions to get attention for himself and score points. Don’t heckle him — and don’t take him seriously.

• When Donald Trump was reported to have declared the FBI headquarters in Washington — a brutalist, exposed-concrete-slab monstrosity on Pennsylvania Avenue — “one of the ugliest buildings in the city,” he was most certainly correct. Brutalism, the Frankensteinesque architectural fad of the ’60s and ’70s, famous for its modernist, fortress-like style, has marred American cities for half a century, vomiting forth public-housing projects that look more like cell blocks and government office buildings that seem intentionally designed to dwarf and kill the surrounding neighborhoods. But since Trump hates brutalism, the Left must love it. “For liberals, buildings like Marcel Breuer’s headquarters for the De­partment of Housing and Urban Development in Washington are period pieces that represent an idealistic vision of what government can and should take responsibility for,” Slate’s Henry Grabar writes in what may be the worst hot take of the year. While Trump’s faux–Louis XV aesthetic isn’t quite to our taste either, the president is right: Brutalism is a stain on American cities that should be excised as soon as is feasible.

• Our economy grew at a 4.1 percent annual rate during the latest quarter, the highest since 2014. Republicans crowed, and it would have been political malpractice for them not to. Democrats, meanwhile, seized on an estimate that wages had dropped sharply. That estimate is probably wrong. The growth number, while subject to revision, is more solid. But both sides are wrong to use these statistics to render a verdict on the tax cut. The main component of the tax cut was a reduction in the corporate tax rate that is supposed to boost investment and thus, over time, boost wages. It’s too early to say how large this effect will be, as inconvenient as that may be for candidates in the midterms.

• President Trump and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced a trade-war truce. The PR surrounding the event was overblown. They agreed to have talks on reducing trade barriers, which is hardly the “breakthrough” Trump calls it: The European Union and the U.S. were working on an agreement before Trump took office, and Trump killed it. Juncker said that Europe would import more American soybeans and liquefied natural gas, both of which are safe predictions more than commitments. Reacting positively to the news that further tariffs are on hold, markets on both sides of the Atlantic provided the real fanfare.

 Charles Koch, the libertarian businessman and philanthropist, criticized President Trump’s trade policies. His network will not be supporting Republican Senate candidate Kevin Cramer in North Dakota because of policy disagreements. Trump responded on Twitter, saying that Koch and his retired brother David are “nice guys” but also “overrated,” a “total joke,” and pursuing their business interests. Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel went further, saying that they thought “their business interests are more important than those of the country.” Our verdict: The Kochs have far and away the better argument on trade; Trump makes more sense than they do on immigration; disagreement is healthy; and Trump’s immediate personalization of it is unsurprising.

 Elizabeth Heng, a young Asian American running for Congress as a Republican in California’s 16th district, has had a campaign advertisement blocked on Facebook. According to the social-media site, the video was flagged for containing “shocking, disrespectful or sensational content.” The advertisement opens with footage about the Cambodian genocide, because Heng’s parents immigrated to the United States from Cambodia as a result of the suffering that the Communist Khmer Rouge had inflicted. This is just the latest instance of a tech company’s censoring conservatives. Candidates such as Heng should be free to advertise on social-media platforms without fear of being blocked, whether or not Facebook’s executives — or algorithms — agree with what they have to say.

 Two historians have quit their roles at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, a think tank focused on presidential history and public policy, to protest the one-year fellowship the institution has granted to Marc Short, a former legislative-affairs director for President Trump. Good riddance: The professors and other critics are attacking Short not for anything he actually did but merely for being in the Trump administration — especially during the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, when the president failed to condemn white supremacists promptly. The simple fact is that Short, with his decades of work in politics and policy, is a fantastic fit for the Miller Center, which seeks to understand the presidency and routinely hires “practitioners” with experience in partisan politics. Short has also embraced the Miller Center’s strong statement on the violence in Charlottesville and said that the administration “could have done a better job expressing sympathy for the victims and outrage at those who perpetrated this evil.” Fortunately, the center’s director has shown admirable backbone in the face of these baseless attacks. We wish both him and Short the best of luck weathering this absurd storm.

 We used to speak of Q&A (question and answer). But now the A is Q. What is this gibberish? You haven’t been paying attention. Q claims to be a figure in the Trump administration; his (their?) online venue,, gets 7 million hits a month. Followers include Roseanne Barr. Q ruminates on the deep state, predicts a coming “storm” in which Democrats and John McCain will be arrested, frets about pedophile sex rings in Hollywood — the usual nutright division. Deceit is the inescapable bastard sibling of journalism, as credulity is of democracy. The election of 1800 was enlivened by tales that the Masons were behind the French Revolution and that President John Adams would marry his son to a European royal. Welcome the latest iteration.

 In its last days, the Obama administration imposed new restrictions on short-term health-insurance policies. The Trump administration is now lifting those restrictions. Insurers will again be able to sell policies lasting a year, and to offer guaranteed renewability. Because these policies are free from various Obamacare regulations, they are cheap and liberals call them “junk insurance.” We think consumers ought to be able to arbitrate the trade-off between the extent of coverage and cost. Liberals also predict that these policies will further destabilize Obamacare’s exchanges by siphoning off some of their healthy and young customers. But policies on the exchanges are heavily subsidized, while short-term plans aren’t. So this effect may not materialize; and it is not a good reason in any case to foreclose people’s options. This isn’t a replacement for Obamacare, but it is a positive step.

 The Trump administration has proposed two major changes to federal vehicle regulations. First, it seeks to abandon its predecessor’s 2012 plan to nearly double cars’ fuel economy by 2025, to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon; instead, the standard would stop rising after 2020, at 37 miles per gallon. And second, the administration wants to eliminate a waiver that gives California the right to create state-level emission rules that are stricter than federal law. We wish that Congress, not the executive branch, would make such decisions, but Trump’s call is the right one under current law: Obama’s standards demanded an unreasonably fast improvement in fuel economy, which was guaranteed to drive up prices and keep families driving older, less safe cars. And while California’s waiver has a faint whiff of federalism, in reality it serves to give a single state an outsized role in federal policy. (Unlike any other jurisdiction, California can threaten to create a separate regulatory regime if nationwide rules don’t track its own prerogatives.) Full speed ahead, whatever the mileage.

 In a unanimous vote on July 23, the House of Representatives passed a bill that withholds federal development funding from any state or local government that uses the power of eminent domain to seize property from its owner and give it to someone else in the name of economic development. The bill also prohibits federal use of eminent domain for the same purpose. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) introduced the bill in 2017 as a revised version of a bill he had originally proposed in 2005 after the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London. The Court had held that governments can use their eminent-domain powers to transfer property from one private owner to another in order to further a revitalization or redevelopment, since the surrounding community theoretically reaps the benefits of such efforts. The federal government may not be able to stop this abuse, but it should at least not facilitate it.

 Rent is increasingly unaffordable for lower-income Ameri­cans in cities along the coasts. California senator Kamala Harris’s Rent Relief Act provides an instructive example of how not to solve the problem. Her proposal would create a refundable tax credit for families that pay more than 30 percent of income in rent. Were the plan implemented, however, landlords would simply raise rents, so the proposal would in practice represent a subsidy for landlords. A better solution would be for local governments to relax zoning regulations, allowing more houses to be built and bringing down rents over time.

 In what may be the best news of the year, the 2014 Flint, Mich., lead-contamination water crisis, which was thought to have poisoned the city’s children, was found to be medically insignificant. According to toxicology and environmental-health experts Hernán Gómez and Kim Dietrich, writing in the New York Times, research shows that based on a “comprehensive view of the data, we are forced to admit that the furor over this issue seems way out of proportion to the actual dangers to the children from lead exposure.” Indeed, the increased lead content in the children’s blood was statistical noise: 0.11 micrograms per deciliter. “A similar increase of 0.12 micrograms per deciliter occurred randomly in 2010–11,” Gómez and Kietrich write. “It is not possible, statistically speaking, to distinguish the increase that occurred at the height of the contamination crisis from other random variations over the previous decade.” A full accounting for the errors, mistakes, and incompetence involved in the municipal water-supply changeover from the Detroit River to the cheaper Flint River should be ongoing. But the children of Flint dodged a bullet. And for that we may thank God.

 After his ill-conceived summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, President Trump declared that the country was “no longer a Nuclear Threat” on Twitter. But a steady stream of reports indicate that the DPRK has not reformed itself. The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence services have detected activity at a missile-research facility outside the country’s capital of Pyongyang. The evidence, intelligence officials told the Post, shows construction under way on at least one and possibly two new intercontinental ballistic missiles. This comes on the heels of reports that North Korea is continuing to produce enriched uranium and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confirmation of those reports to a Senate panel. The pomp of the Trump–Kim summit does not change the fact that continued pressure, not credulity, is the right approach to the despotic Kim regime. North Korea is an unscrupulous enemy, and continues to act like it.

 It is a testament to the Kim regime’s dark nature that Pyongyang has only now handed over to the United States what it says are the remains of some 55 American soldiers who died in the Korean War. Researchers have begun the painstaking work of identifying who the men were who once may have animated the collections of fragments of bones. Paul Emanovsky, a forensic anthropologist with the Defense Department, tells The New York Times Magazine that he expects his team to have no “trouble getting DNA” and that “success rates” should be “very high, I think near 90 percent.” Here utilitarian calculations lose the argument to what the Romans called pietas, which Michelangelo illustrated in his sculpture bearing that approximate title. Even Achilles in all his wrath and vengeance honored Priam’s wish to honor Hector’s corpse. Let us hope that North Korea has allowed itself to recognize that universal human sentiment with regard to the dead. Requiescat in pace.

 The Chinese dictatorship has announced a new “patriotic struggle” against intellectuals, also described as an “unremitting struggle.” State officials will hold “struggle sessions,” the purpose of which is to “enhance the ideological identity, emotional identity, and value identification” of intellectuals. As Jerome A. Cohen, the veteran American scholar of China, says, Xi Jinping is presiding over the “tightest period” — the most oppressive period — in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile, Google is planning to reintroduce a censored search engine to China. This is an engine that will meet the dictatorship’s wants and needs, blocking information about democracy and human rights, for example. Once more, people in free countries help dictatorships keep other people unfree.

 The Oslo Freedom Forum is an annual human-rights gathering, held in the Norwegian capital, as the name tells you. But, in between annual gatherings, they take their show on the road, and this coming November they will be in Taipei. That is an inspired choice. Taiwan shows that a country can move from dictatorship and autocracy to democracy and freedom. It also shows the utter compatibility between Chinese culture and liberal democracy — which is a big reason that Taiwan makes the dictatorship in Beijing angry and bitter.

 The Cambodian People’s Party says that it won all 125 seats in the parliamentary elections on July 29. That would cement the one-party rule under Prime Minister Hun Sen, a veteran of the Khmer Rouge. Official results will be announced later this month. Last year, Cambodia’s supreme court dissolved the main opposition party and banned 118 of its members from politics. Its leader was jailed in September on charges of conspiring with the United States to overthrow the government. Not wanting to dignify the sham, U.S., European, and Japanese monitors declined to observe the elections. They were “neither free nor fair,” in the words of the White House press office, and “represent the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia’s Constitution.” That Hun Sen bothers to pretend that his regime is legitimated by certain features of liberal democracy is a reflection on his cynicism, of course, but also on the stubborn, universal appeal of the institutions he mocks.

 The Saudi dictatorship has arrested at least 15 women’s-rights activists, including Samar Badawi. She is the sister of Raif Badawi, the most prominent political prisoner in Saudi Arabia. His wife and children fled to Canada, where they are now citizens. Following the latest arrests, the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, issued a tweet: “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi . . . has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.” The Saudi dictatorship reacted furiously, expelling the Canadian ambassador, recalling its ambassador to Ottawa, and forswearing all new trade with Canada. The Canadians are sticking to their guns, and standing for something important in the world.

 Matteo Salvini is the head of the League, which is a partner in the Italian government, along with the Five Star Movement. Salvini is the deputy prime minister and the interior minister. He is a great admirer and ally of Vladimir Putin, with whose party he, as head of the League, signed a friendship-and-cooperation agreement last year. Salvini pronounced it a “historic deal.” He went as far as to wear a Putin T-shirt in Moscow. This year, on July 29, he issued an interesting tweet. It was Mussolini’s birthday — and he echoed a Mussolini slogan, “Many enemies, much honor.” Remember: Mussolini banned Jews from schools and public office, and stole their money. He was Hitler’s enthusiastic partner in a world war. Salvini has brought himself no honor, and deserves more enemies.

 Swedes are finding that Muslim migrants now in the country do things differently, and child marriage is one of those things. It’s especially bothersome because the elderly Prophet Mohammed is recorded marrying Aisha when she was nine. A report by the Swedish Migration Agency in 2016 gave the figure of 132 child marriages. Another official body put out a brochure saying that it is “improper” to live with a child under the age of 15, an approach so feeble that the brochure had to be withdrawn. Elections will be held in September, and when the leftist coalition now in government proposed to recognize child marriages that had been carried out abroad, a campaign issue was launched. Jimmie Akesson, leader of the oppositional Swedish Democrats, has his eye on the populist vote: “It is, frankly, totally sick that one can’t just simply say no to something as bizarre as grown men having the right to marry children.”

 Pope Francis has stripped Theodore McCarrick of his title and place in the College of Cardinals after reports that he groomed and molested a minor. This is the same Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Newark, who made himself the face of the American bishops’ response to the child-sex-abuse crisis nearly two decades ago. Notably, the policy the bishops formulated in 2002 in Dallas required accountability from priests but not from the bishops themselves. Since the credible report of pederasty emerged, numerous men have come forward to allege what was already widely known about McCarrick: that he regularly preyed upon seminarians, asking them to sleep with him, sometimes asking them to wear sailor suits, and always asking them to call him “Uncle Ted.” The nickname and his proclivities were an open secret among clergy and informed laymen on the East Coast. His colleagues in the College of Cardinals are now ducking straightforward questions, such as “What did you know and when did you know it?” They are promising to create new panels, to launch new inquiries, and to formulate new policies. All those might have their place. But what is first needed in the American Catholic Church is something closer to regime change.

 The Nation, which has a long history of publishing poetry, recently ran “How-To,” a verse by Anders Carlson-Wee: ironic advice to society’s outcasts on how to wring favors from the better-off. “How-To” proved that poetry can indeed move hearts and minds in the modern world. Readers denounced it for its assumed black dialect, forcing the author and The Nation’s poetry editors to apologize for their un-wokeness. “We are sorry,” wrote editor Stephanie Burt, “for the pain we have caused to the many communities affected by this poem. We recognize that we must now earn your trust back.” We have long disagreed with our left-wing sister publication, but we never thought it had lost its mind. If writers cannot use ventriloquism, there goes half of literature, starting with all plays, and all dialogue in all fiction.

 The “Me Too” movement continues apace, with Ronan Farrow still in the lead. As our Rob Long has said, “The three most terrifying words in Hollywood are ‘Ronan Farrow called.’” They strike a nerve beyond Hollywood too. In The New Yorker, Farrow exposed Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS. Six women accused him of sexual misconduct. CBS has arranged for an outside investigation. If the charges are true, Moonves has behaved like a pig and a brute. He can join the club, ever burgeoning. Me Too has its excesses, like most movements, but America is now experiencing a kind of reckoning, and victims feel less alone, ignored, and helpless.

 Cities in Texas have been removing memorials to Confederate leaders and to other historical figures associated with slavery, one of which presents a special problem for Austin: Austin. The Texas capital is named for Stephen F. Austin, celebrated as the Father of Texas, the impresario who led the first 300 families from the United States to settle in what was at the time a Mexican territory. He also oversaw the introduction of slavery into Texas. The city’s Equity Office (of course Austin has institutionalized its lefty identity politics in a city agency) has suggested changing the name of the city as part of its campaign to cleanse Austin (or whatever they’re going to call it) of its actual history. But that won’t do: Austin is in Travis County, named for Alamo hero William B. Travis, a slave owner. That’ll have to change, too. Texas locales from Lubbock (after Confederate colonel Thomas Saltus Lubbock) to Jeff Davis County are named for Confederate figures. (Reagan County wasn’t named for the Gipper, but for the Confederate postmaster general.) Houston will escape: Sam Houston was a Union man, removed from office for refusing an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. This is silly stuff, but Austin is a silly place. The locals boast of their desire to “Keep Austin Weird.” It’s not even clear they’ll keep Austin Austin.

 And a little child shall lead them . . . astray. Over the last few years, municipalities from Seattle to Miami Beach have been rushing to outlaw plastic straws, based on a researcher’s finding that Americans throw away 500 million of them a day, many of which end up in the sea. The researcher turns out to have been a nine-year-old boy, who admits that he made the figure up — but that hasn’t stopped the straw-ban movement, whose adherents speak vaguely of “raising awareness” and “highlighting issues” and “taking first steps.” As with many purportedly earth-saving practices, true believers accept a mild inconvenience because it makes them feel good and then make others accept it because that makes them feel even better. Or as a member of the Santa Barbara city council explained: “Unfortunately, common sense is just not common. We have to regulate every aspect of people’s lives.” We couldn’t have summed up the progressive mindset any better ourselves.

 A proposed city ordinance in San Francisco would ban employee cafeterias in new office buildings. The aim is to increase traffic at business-district restaurants by making workers leave their offices to eat. The law’s target is generally understood to be San Francisco’s technology firms, which are famous for the elaborate meals they offer employees. But one of the bill’s sponsors told a reporter that “it’s not about targeting a particular industry . . . but rather about spurring a conversation about how companies can engage with local businesses.” We can remember when people started conversations by simply saying something, and when businesses went where the customers were instead of expecting government to engineer the reverse. Meanwhile, just wait until the city government finds out about home kitchens.

 Word comes from Egypt that a Cairo zoo has painted black and white stripes on a donkey and is exhibiting it as a zebra. It’s not the first time that this has been tried; a decade ago, a Gaza zoo used black hair dye and masking tape to zebra-ize a pair of donkeys, and none of the visiting children noticed anything wrong (pro tip: look for long ears and paint smudges). The Cairo zookeeper stubbornly insists that his black-and-white beast actually is a zebra, and news sources have roundly scoffed at the claim, but he may in fact have a point. Applying modern intersectionality theory to animal rights and gender studies yields the indisputable conclusion that if a donkey decides that it’s a zebra, it’s a zebra.

 Thirty years ago, Rush Limbaugh debuted his national radio show. It was something that, thanks to the Fairness Doctrine (which Ronald Reagan had only recently eliminated) and the stultifying faux-objectivity of network news, no one had heard in broadcast journalism before: a program that brought conservative ideas to the masses through a mix of news coverage, thoughtful lectures, and of course large heapings of parody and edgy humor. Limbaugh quickly rocketed to the front of the talk-radio pack and has stayed there ever since, weathering the occasional controversy but always bouncing back to provide three hours a day of witty conservative commentary. Happy 30th, Rush.

 As a senator in the 1970s, Paul Laxalt fought and lost the battle for the United States to keep sole possession of the Panama Canal. He departed from some of his allies by refusing to badmouth Panama or its people, citing his French Basque heritage — his parents were immigrants — and natural sympathy for the small nation caught up in a dispute with its bigger neighbor. After serving as a medic in the Pacific theater during World War II, he finished college and law school and launched a career in Nevada and Republican-party politics. In the 1960s he helped to purge the state party of the John Birch Society. His governorship (1967–71) coincided with that of Ronald Reagan in California, Nevada’s western neighbor, and the friendship between the two men endured. Reagan chose him to head his campaign against President Ford in 1976. After Reagan moved into the White House in the 1980s, Laxalt, the junior and then senior senator from the Silver State, was dubbed by the press “the first friend.” His eventful life came to its graceful close four days after his 96th birthday. His grandson continues his conservative legacy as the Republican nominee for governor. R.I.P.

 Ron Dellums was the congressman from Berkeley for more than 27 years: 1971 to 1998. He was the leftmost member of Congress. He may have been the leftmost congressman ever, along with Vito Marcantonio, the New York red who sat in the House from the 1930s to the 1950s. Dellums supported Fidel Castro and similar brutes the world over. He was for freedom and democracy in South Africa, but not where the Fidels, big and little, ruled. Yet Republican congressmen found him an affable colleague, which is not nothing. Dellums has died at 82. R.I.P.

 The southern girl from Johnson City, Tenn., graduated from the University of Alabama and moved to New York, where she got a job in show business, answering fan mail for cartoon characters at CBS. Andrea Millen’s later stints in TV included work with Sid Caesar and NBC News. Meanwhile, she joined the Libertarian party and was appointed its chairwoman in the 1970s, when the vice chairman was Howard S. Rich. They wasted no time in getting married. In 1982 they bought Laissez-Faire Books in Greenwich Village and transformed it into a full-service mail-order publishing service for libertarians, bringing neglected classics back into print. Andrea Rich had a hand in the Center for Independent Thought, the Center for Independent Studies, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Atlas Network, and was the longest-serving board member of the Cato Institute. Her contributions to the intellectual formation of the libertarian movement in America were deep and vast. She spent her last two decades, a long time, holding back cancer. Dead at 79. R.I.P.

By: the Gazette Xtra

The U.S. Department of Commerce decision last week to reduce tariffs on Canadian newsprint—from as high as 32 percent to 20 percent—is welcome but doesn’t go far enough. We’re holding out hope the U.S. International Trade Commission will completely overturn the tariffs when it meets Wednesday, Aug. 29.

Regardless of what happens, we’re heartened to see lawmakers from both parties making a last-minute push against the tariffs. We applaud, in particular, five members of the Wisconsin delegation—Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Reps. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeluah; Ron Kind, D-La Crosse; Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls; and Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay—for voicing their opposition in a July 31 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.

The letter describes the “permanent damage being done to Wisconsin’s newspaper industry,” noting newspaper industry costs have risen by about 30 percent.

“Notwithstanding the many other tariff decisions this administration has made or threatened, this particular decision not only is adding insurmountable financial pressures on these owners and operators of our state’s small towns and weekly newspapers, but it’s leading many of them to rethink the viability of their entire operations,” the letter reads.

It’s disappointing the entire delegation didn’t sign the letter, though missing signatures don’t necessarily indicate a representative’s support for the tariffs. In a July 25 phone call with Ross and other commerce department representatives, House Speaker Paul Ryan “expressed his concerns about the negative impact” of the tariffs, according to a July 26 memo obtained by The Gazette.

While Congress hasn’t taken action to thwart tariffs, Ryan has at least spoken against them.

Rep. Mark Pocan, whose district extends into Rock County, also didn’t sign the letter, but a spokesman for Pocan’s office said the Democrat “opposes the administration’s newsprint tariffs and is concerned about the negative impacts ... on local newspapers, which are so important to communities throughout Wisconsin.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been noncommittal on the issue, sending to the International Trade Commission on July 17 a cryptic letter that seems to neither oppose nor support the tariff. A spokesperson for her office confirmed Baldwin “has not taken a position” on these tariffs.

In case Baldwin or any other legislator requires reminding about the importance of community journalism, newspapers are the watchdogs of government—the fourth estate. These tariffs undermine newspapers’ ability to gather and report the news. They act as a tax on not only readers but on democracy itself.

On June 17, our very own state representative, Robin Vos, was quoted in The Journal Times saying he is opposed to the Village of Mount Pleasant using eminent domain to take private property for purposes of giving it to Foxconn. The next day, Jonathan Delagrave, in a county listening session, agreed it would be wrong.

Still, Mount Pleasant continues to threaten to take homes using eminent domain so it can literally hand the property over to Foxconn for economic development.

Is the Mount Pleasant Village Board so arrogant that it will ignore the opinions of 380 members of Congress, our state representative and county executive and continue to blindly follow the advice of counsel which clearly violates the private property rights of its own residents, at the expense of all residents of Mount Pleasant, and to the benefit of Attorney Marcuvitz and his firm?

Kimberly Mahoney

Mount Pleasant

By: Andrew Forcier of the Independent Journal Review

A bill to put limits on the use of eminent domain, which has made its way through the House on three prior occasions, received renewed life this week. The Private Property Rights Protection Act received a unanimous vote in the House last week — a rare feat in such a politically polarized era.

However, in three prior instances, a nearly identical piece of legislation languished and died in the Senate. Will this year's version suffer the same fate, or will a Republican majority and a relative lack of fanfare give it the legs it needs to survive a vote?

The bill would prohibit states from receiving federal dollars after the taking of private property in the name of economic development, while also eliminating the ability of the federal government to do the same.

Elias Atienza@elias_atienza

“It’s nothing more than a way for one party to get property on the cheap from another party.”
-@Roger_Pilon on the Kelo decision. Read about the House's passage of the Private Property Rights Protection Act in my latest for the @DailyCaller 

House Passes Bill That Would Encourage States Not To Seize Private Property For ‘Economic Develop...

A rebuke to the 2005 Kelo decison

Ever since the controversial Kelo v. New London decision more than a decade ago, states have made inroads to limiting eminent domain abuses at the local level. The argument is that the government, in acting as arbiter of what is sufficient “public use,” makes victims of the less affluent and less politically connected.

It was the fourth time past the post for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R—Wis.) with the legislation, and his statement echoed the desire to protect the less powerful.

“The framers of the Constitution would be horrified by the paradigm created by Kelo: a government free to seize and transfer private property from individuals with fewer resources to private entities with more.”

The story of the original Kelo case involved the taking of a woman's house to pave the way for a Pfizer office park that was never built. The case was so compelling that this past year, it was made into a film called Little Pink House starring Catherine Keener.

Those associated with the dramatization were delighted to hear news of the PRPA's passage.

Little Pink House@LPHmovie

No eminent domain for private gain! House unanimously passes Susette Kelo-inspired bill! Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner 

House Passes Sensenbrenner Bill to Protect Private Property Rights

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House unanimously passed Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1689). The bill addresses the controversial Supreme Court...

The case was not an isolated one, as even today there are similar circumstances arising in sates like New York, where a community is pursuing eminent domain proceedings to seize a residential property.

The practice even figures in to how the Trump administration would acquire the land necessary to build the oft-mentioned wall along the United States' southern border.

Eugene Volokh writes for Reason that such a land grab for the border wall would do irreparable harm to those involved, saying that “many property owners get less than the 'fair market value' compensation required by Supreme Court precedent, and that this is particularly likely for those who are poor, legally unsophisticated, and lacking in political influence.”

Among our most basic tasks as Members of Congress is to cast votes on legislation before the House of Representatives. I take this duty very seriously because it is a way for my constituents in the 5th Congressional District to have a voice in Washington. In 2018, the House of Representatives voted 379 times, and I’m proud to report that I cast a vote each and every time. 

Sometimes Members might miss a vote because of family demands, travel snafus or illness. However, I have a perfect record this year. In fact, since 2010, I’ve compiled a 99.5 percent voting record.

My commitment to being present for votes and making myself accessible to my constituents is important for how I manage my priorities. During the 115th Congress, I’ve hosted 176 face-to-face town hall meetings. I’ve also received and responded to more than 100,000 different letters, emails, and phone calls. The feedback I get from my constituents helps with the difficult decisions I’m often faced with when I vote. This is how the system should work. I appreciate it when I hear from those whom I represent when they are sharing their opinions and concerns.

So far this year, we have tackled a variety of critical issues in the House – issues that impact our quality of life. For example, we have passed more than 50 bills that address topics such as the opioid epidemic;  funding for our military; and burdensome regulations on job creators and small businesses. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and I thank you for your input on these and many other important issues.

As the House is set to recess for August, I encourage you to keep the cards and letters coming! I am listening. You can reach my Washington Office at (202) 225-5101, or my Brookfield Office at (262) 784-1111. Or, send a message through my website,

By: Ilya Somin of Reason

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which would withhold, for two years, federal "economic development" funds to any state and local governments that use eminent domain to take property for private "economic development." The PRPA is a response to the Supreme Court's notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which upheld the condemnation of homes for a private economic development project that eventually failed. The Kelo decision drew widespread public opposition across the political spectrum and resulted in numerous attemtps at legislative reform. The PRPA - co-sponsored by the unlikely coalition of very conservative Republican Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) and very liberal Democrat Maxine Waters (California) is one such effort.

However, celebration over its passage is premature. This is far from the first time that the PRPA has passed the House. Essentially the same law also got through the House in 2005, 2012, and 2014. Each time, it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. And each time it nonetheless ended up failing in the Senate without even coming up for a vote. I discuss this history in a bit more detail in Chapter 5 of The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain, my book about the Kelo case and its aftermath. The same thing could easily happen this year, especially since the Senate has lots of other issues on its plate, and will soon be facing a midterm election, which is likely to take many members away from Washington to go on the campaign trail. Moreover, eminent domain reform is not getting as much public attention today as in the years soon after Kelo. The passage of the PRPA this year attracted considerably less media attention than the previous times it got through the House. That may make it easier for the Senate to bury it, should they be inclined to do so (as was the case in previous years).

Even if the PRPA does pass the Senate, there is a chance it could be vetoed by President Trump, who has a history of eminent domain abuse, and is a longstanding defender of the Kelo decision and economic development takings. But if the Senate majority is as lopsided as that in the House, his veto could well be overriden. In that scenario, Trump could well decide that a political fight over a veto is not worth the trouble.

When and if PRPA becomes law, it would probably have only a modest impact. As discussed in my book (pp. 160-61), it affects only a fairly narrow range of federal grants, and has some loopholes that clever jurisdictions could exploit. That said, a modest impact would still be an improvement over the status quo, and the bill would at least save some federal funds that would otherwise go to misbehaving state and local governments. The best should not be the enemy of the good. For that reason, I hope that this time Congress actually will enact the PRPA. But I am far from confident that will actually happen.

Whatever the fate of the PRPA, many valuable reform laws have passed at the state level since Kelo, and several state supreme courts have ruled that economic development takings are forbidden under their state constitutions. At the same time, much remains to be done to protect property rights in this field, since numerous states have either failed to enact any reform laws, or adopted cosmetic reforms that only pretend to address the problem.

I believe there is a good chance that the Supreme Court will either limit or overrule Kelo sometime in the short to medium term future. Despite Trump's support for the ruling, his first Supreme Court appointee - Neil Gorsuch - is a vehement critic of Kelo (a fact Trump may not have known at the time he decided to appoint him). We do not know whether Trump's latest appointee - Brett Kavanaugh - feels the same way. Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh would replace if confirmed, was a key swing voter in the Court's narrow 5-4 majority in the Kelo case.

When and if the Court does revisit Kelo, it should consider the strong case for overruling it, from the standpoint of both originalism and living constitutionalism. The decision also has serious flaws that cut across conventional methodological disagreements over constitutional theory.

But property rights advocates should not wait for the Supreme Court to solve this problem. Rather, they should continue to work to strengthen protection for property rights on both legislative and judicial fronts. One of the lessons of the Kelo experience (as well as previous previous efforts to strengthen protection for constitutional rights) is that legislative and litigation-based strategies for reform are often mutually reinforcing, rather than mutually exclusive.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I accidentally stated that the PRPA passed the House in 2007, as well as 2005, 2012, and 2014. In reality, it failed to do so that year. It passed out of committee, but did not come to a vote of the full House. In the initial version of the post, I accidentally misstated what I had written in the relevant part of my book. I apologize for the error, which has now been corrected.

By: Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner 

FBI official Peter Strzok testified Thursday that he can't recall using his work computer to soften the wording of a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton of mishandling classified information.

Strzok conceded during a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees that metadata indicates his computer made the change, but said he can't remember doing it.

The June 2016 edit changed "grossly negligent," a term that carries legal liability under the Espionage Act, to "extremely careless."

The new wording was uttered by then-FBI Director James Comey in July 2016 when he recommended against charging Clinton with a crime for using a private server to handle classified information while secretary of state.

Strzok, removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation last year after discovery of pro-Clinton and anti-Donald Trump text messages with then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, said someone else recommended the change.

"My recollection, sir, is that somebody within our office of general counsel did, it was one of the attorneys, I don't remember which one," Strzok said. "It was a legal issue that one of the attorneys brought up."

After a meeting, the change was made on Strzok's computer.

"I don't recall specifically when it happened," he testified.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., noted that metadata indicated that Strzok's computer made the change.

"I am aware as well of that metadata," Strzok said. "My recollection is of working on the draft with a group of us in my office because it was the largest office and taking the inputs of probably five or ten different people."

Sensenbrenner asked Strzok to confirm that his computer made the change.

"Based on my subsequent review of that metadata, I believe that to be true," Strzok said.

Strzok said that only he had full access to the computer, but that "my secretary had access to elements of it."

Explaining the decision to soften the wording, he said, "my recollection was that attorneys within the FBI had raised the concern that the use of gross negligence triggered a very specific legal meaning ... particularly [in] one of the mishandling [classified information] statutes."

Sensenbrenner asked, "This change was Hillary's get out of jail free card, right?"

"She received no get out of jail free card, we pursued the facts," Strzok insisted.

"That rates four Pinocchios," Sensenbrenner told him.

Strzok refuted Sensenbrenner's conclusion. He said Comey "ultimately...made the decision to change that wording" following a "legal discussion of the use of that term."

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House unanimously passed Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1689).

The bill addresses the controversial Supreme Court decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the eminent domain power granted by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. In Kelo, the Court ruled that “economic development” can be justified as a “public use” under the Constitution’s Takings Clause.

To combat this expansion of power, H.R. 1689 would make any state or locality that uses the economic development justification for eminent domain ineligible from receiving federal economic development funds for two years. This creates a major incentive for governments to respect the private property rights of its citizens.

Additionally, the legislation bars the federal government from exercising eminent domain powers for the purposes of economic development.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This bipartisan legislation restores the individual private property rights guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment. The framers of the Constitution would be horrified by the paradigm created by Kelo:a government free to seize and transfer private property from individuals with fewer resources to private entities with more. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support of this bill and urge the Senate to immediately send it to the President’s desk.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner offered the follow remarks on the House floor:


“Mr. Speaker,

I am pleased that the House is considering H.R. 1689, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. My bill aims to restore the property rights of all Americans that the Supreme Court took away in 2005.

The Founders of our country recognized the importance of an individual’s right to personal property when they drafted the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In Kelo v. the City of New London, the Supreme Court decided that “economic development” could be a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the government could take private property from an owner, in this case Susette Kelo, to help a corporation or private developer, in this case Pfizer.

The now infamous Kelo decision created a massive backlash. As former Justice O’Connor stated, “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.  The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” Even in the 13 years since Kelo, polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose property being taken and transferred to another private owner, even if it is for the public economic good. 

The Private Property Rights Protection Act is needed to restore to all Americans the property rights the Supreme Court invalidated. Although several states have since passed legislation to limit their power to eminent domain, and a number of supreme courts have barred the practice under their state constitutions, these laws exist on a varying degree. H.R. 1689 would prohibit state and local governments that receive federal economic development funds from using economic development as a justification for taking property from one person and giving to another private entity. Any state or local government that violates this prohibition will be ineligible to receive federal economic development funds for two years.

The protection of property rights is one of the most important tenets of our government. I am mindful of the long history of eminent domain abuses, particularly in low-income and often predominantly minority neighborhoods, and the need to stop it. I am also mindful of the reasons we should allow the government to take the lead when the way in which the land is being used constitutes an immediate threat to public health and safety. I believe this bill accomplishes both goals.

I urge my colleagues to join me in protecting private property rights for all Americans and limiting the dangerous effects of the Kelo decision on the most vulnerable in society. I reserve the balance of my time.”