This partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, May 15, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order last night's entire transcript.
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SEAN HANNITY-HOST: Should the government be able to grab your property if it needs to build power lines? We're joined in Washington by Mike Hardiman, legislative director of the American Conservative Union.
Mike, welcome aboard. How are you? This -- this is a close-call issue for me, and at the heart of this is whether or not the -- President Bush's energy plan's going to be put forward this week. It's expected to include recommendations to allow the federal government to seize private property using eminent-domain authority, which is constitutional under limited circumstances, but I'm -- I'm leery of it. Do you share my concerns?
MIKE HARDIMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Yes. Absolutely. The administration has done -- apparently, what's going to come up on Thursday is a lot of good things, such as re -- beginning again the construction of nuclear power plants, which is a safe and clean form of energy.
Also, they appointed some excellent people who have respect for private-property rights, but this proposal for collusion between big government and big business to condemn people's property has got to be kept under careful control or it could go out of control, as it has done in other cases with other federal agencies.
HANNITY: Yeah. Well, you know, my concern is, if we do this and expand the authority a little bit, I -- I always fear that, if liberals ever get back in power, they'd abuse it a lot more. So my -- my concerns may be different from yours.
But what this really means -- we've got real energy problems. We've had ostensibly no energy policy for eight years. We have rolling blackouts in California. Even if we were to tap some reserves, like we have been planning in -- in the Alaskan Wildlife Reserve, it's -- it's years before we get the benefit of that.
So I -- I understand the need for it. Constitutionally, it's sound. People have to be given fair compensation. But I'm -- I still have these concerns.
HARDIMAN: Well, that -- that's a very important point, is -- is with the federal government in particular, people are very rarely paid fair value for their property. The people are paid the absolute minimum the federal government thinks it can get away with without triggering a lawsuit, and that's something that disproportionately affects small landowners.
If you're a big property owner, several-million-dollar piece of property, if the government tries to low ball you, you have the money and the time to go to court and fight them. But if you've got a small piece
worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars, the federal government will hand you a check for maybe $25,000, 10 or 15 cents on a dollar, and say, "If you don't like it, take us to court," and you can either walk away paid a fraction of what your land is worth or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and years in federal court trying to fight them back.
COLMES: Mike, this is -- this is Alan. It's absolutely outrageous. If Bill Clinton or some liberal president tried to do this, conservatives would be outraged. They'd be yelling and screaming. They'd be -- they'd be yelling totalitarianism and fascism, trying to take people's lands away.
By Sean's own admission, we've got to just -- it's a little problem now, but then if the liberals get in power, they'll really abuse it. Well, this is an abuse now.
And let me show you -- I think we ought to follow the money trail here. I want to show you what was said by Thomas Kuhn, chief of the Edison Electric Institute. Here's what he had to say addressing an electric group. He said -- in May, 1999 -- this is a -- quoting Michael Isikoff of "Newsweek."
"A memo urging electric executives to write a thousand-dollar checks, Kuhn reminded them to include a special tracking code devised to insure that our industry's credited for its contributions. By election day, electric utilities had donated $12.4 million to Bush and other GOP candidates."
As with everything else, this administration, it seems -- every policy rollback or every initiative, you follow the money trail, and you get what their motivation is. Do you disagree with that?
HARDIMAN: Well, there are options to this condemnation power. One thing the Republican Party is supposed to stand for is government closest to the people, and the states have the condemnation power for a lot of these things. Why turn it over to the feds and take it farther away from the people?
Something else is President Clinton's outrageous 58-million-acre forest service land lockup. Fifty-eight-million acres is all of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts...
COLMES: All right. I understand you want to change the...
HARDIMAN: ... all -- the whole northeastern United States.
COLMES: ... argument to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton's not president anymore, Mike.
HANNITY: Thank God for that.
COLMES: Right now, it's President Bush, and it makes Sean happy whenever I say it. President -- George W. Bush is president. He's even my president. You want to now argue Bill Clinton. You're going back in time.
I think you should be outraged as a conservative by what he's doing now talking about a land grab for people when it's never been done for this purpose before. Where is the outrage on the right about this, the same outrage you would have if a liberal president did such a thing?
HARDIMAN: Well, in a worst-case scenario, this could start an open culture war within the Republican Party where you have the Wall Street big corporate Republicans working in collusion with big government to condemn the land of small property owners of the Main Street Republicans who end up
on the short end of the stick. That's a worst-case scenario. Whether it gets there, I don't know.
HANNITY: Mike, thank you for joining us. That's what eight years of no energy policy gets us. These are tough times.
COLMES: Blame Clinton. Let's go back and blame Clinton.
HANNITY: Good idea.
COLMES: Yeah, great.
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