Bank Turns Down Loans for Businesses Seizing Private Property
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 26, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
BOB BECKEL, GUEST HOST: One of the nation's largest banks announced yesterday that it will not make loans to commercial developments who plan private projects seized from private homeowners by eminent domain.
Joining us now is the chairman and CEO of BB&T, John Allison.
John, first of all, congratulations. I think it's absolutely wonderful. Why did you decide to do it?
JOHN ALLISON, CEO, BB&T: Thank you. Well, we believe that one of the most fundamental principles on which this country was founded was the concept of individual rights, and the most important of those rights is the right to private property. Our whole free enterprise private economic system is based upon that right. We think it's morally wrong for the government to use the power of eminent domain to take the private property of one individual for the benefit of another private individual.
BECKEL: Any hope that some of your fellow CEO bankers will follow your lead? Or will you call a few of them? How about that? How about calling Craig McCall or someone like that, you know? Give them a call and just say, "Come on, follow me."
ALLISON: I have already talked to a few of them, and I hope they will follow my lead. It's been very interesting, frankly, a little bit to our surprise. This was really what I call an ethical issue for us, but we've had phenomenal positive feedback from our clients and our employees that this is obviously a gut-level issue for the American people.
BECKEL: Let me ask you this, sir, because he won't ask it, because he's about to start asking some questions. But how much of this — did the "Hannity & Colmes" effort to do the eminent domain thing impact on you at all on this? I'm only a guest, so I can ask the question. You can say no if you want to.
ALLISON: I think in general, the fact that organizations like the Institute of Justice have brought this issue to the public fore. I don't know that we specifically followed your program, but you are among a number of other people.
And the history of our company, while we're a large company, not long ago we were really an eastern North Carolina farm bank. We primarily dealt with small businesses and farms. And we realized the feedback from that kind of client base that this is a gut-level issue. People's homes are very important things and that this represented the possibility of expanding the power of government, to some degree arbitrarily take people's most valuable assets.
BECKEL: By the way, you loaned me money for a car, and I paid you back. I just want to let you know that. When you were a small bank — Sean.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: He did?
BECKEL: I did. He did and I did.
HANNITY: John, is there any particular issue, because I could tell you some things, issues in this particular case, John, that really, really angered me.
Like for example, when they took away the Revelli Tire Company after 54 years. Or the case of the World War II vet who was run out of his home. Both those cases were condominiums. We had a woman on last week, 70 years old. They're knocking her out of her home of 50 years. Were there any particular cases that touched you emotionally, that motivated you?
ALLISON: Well, the whole case in Connecticut touched me. I'll have to tell you, I was a little touched personally. And a long story, but — old story, not a long story.
Years ago I had an aunt who was a 90-something-plus-year-old lady who had a nice home, in my opinion, that somebody decided was a blighted area. It didn't look blighted to me. They took her home using eminent domain, because she had lived there 50 years. She had no other family. All her friends were in that neighborhood. She was forced into a retirement home, died a couple years later, I think a little bit pining for her own home.
They tore her house down, and for 10 years they never built anything on it.
HANNITY: It's hard to...
ALLISON: They finally did build something, but in my personal opinion, what they built was no nicer than what she had when it was there. You know, a lot of times what for the public good really means what — somebody says it's for the public good, it's good for them and maybe not so good for you.
HANNITY: You know, it's very interesting you say that. I find that they go into these communities. These are people's homes. They've worked hard. They've sacrificed. This is the backbone of our society. They're beautiful homes. Very similar to the one I grew up in. Maybe they're not mansions. But they're the homes of these people. Then they insult them and say this is a blighted area.
But we really know what it's about. It's legalized — I almost look at some of these examples as legalized stealing. Because what they want to do is they want that property so bad so they can increase the tax revenues to the government so they can take it from one private citizen to another. Is that a fair characterization? Private stealing, or government stealing?
ALLISON: I think it is in a way. That's a very important fact: 99 percent of commercial development in America takes place without the power of eminent domain. We finance billions of dollars.
BECKEL: John, let me ask you a question, which is kind of frightening when I think about it. But could the comptroller of the currency force you to lend money? In other words, could you take yourself out of the lending business because you don't like what somebody's doing?
ALLISON: I think they probably could force us if they chose to. I mean, my experience is that they could force us. I don't think they will.
BECKEL: But if they do, let us know, will you? We'll jump on it. Not many people know who the comptroller of the currency is, but they do control banks and they, too, could make your life difficult. I mean, isn't it right that you — I mean, I would assume that, say, somebody wants to — a developer says, "You turn me down, you're discriminating against me," right?
ALLISON: Well, I think they could argue that.
HANNITY: I don't think you should lend them money because they...
ALLISON: But people are willing to finance these projects, so I think the fact that we won't do it practically won't be an issue for us. But if it is, let them sue us, because we don't think it's the right thing to do.
HANNITY: I wouldn't lend him money, John, because he's a liberal.
BECKEL: Now, there you go. There's discrimination at its heart. We now have got to the heart of Sean Hannity.
HANNITY: Wait, but it's your liberal members of the court that did this in the Kelo case.
BECKEL: Please. Anyway, John, we just want to congratulate you again. It's terrific you're doing this. And I hope you get all the rest of these CEOs and just embarrass them, must make them do it. You know what I mean?
HANNITY: We actually agree on this one.
BECKEL: There we go.
HANNITY: All right. Remember, by the way, we want to hear your stories of eminent domain abuse. You can e-mail us at ItCanHappenToYou@FOXNews.com.
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