New York developer’s eminent-domain crusade comes to California

Howard Rich may live in New York, but he has waded deep into California
politics. The multimillionaire developer, and president of U.S. Term Limits,
has bankrolled California’s eminent-domain measure to the tune of $1.5
million. But the money is only one front in Rich’s national crusade against
eminent domain, an effort that spans more than a half-dozen states and
millions of dollars.

“We have the ability to, in effect, bypass legislatures by going directly
to the people through the initiative process,” says Rich from his New York

Through a web of organizations, Rich is backing eminent-domain initiatives
in Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington with
$4 million–though no state has received as much financial support as
California. In each of these efforts, Rich himself is never disclosed as a
major donor. Instead, he steers his contributions through nonprofit
intermediaries, such as the Fund for Democracy, which he is using to finance
California’s Proposition 90 campaign.

“I think California often leads the nation,” says Rich. “It is the largest,
most populous state and it is very important to us that property rights be
restored there.”

But the influx of out-of-state money pushing measures to amend state
constitutions across the country has angered many local activists.

“They are backed by an organization that is chaired by a New York real
estate developer and that makes you wonder who is going to benefit,” says
Aaron Toso, spokesman for the campaign against Washington’s eminent-domain
measure. “Obviously if people don’t live here they wont have to pay the
extra taxes and sit in the extra traffic.”

Here in California, opponents of the eminent-domain initiative are also
accusing Rich of pushing his unwanted, out-of-state agenda on the state’s

“The fact that this one guy from New York, an out-of-state multimillionaire,
has decided, ‘I know what’s best for the nation and I am going to tell all
the state’s how to do things right’

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: