Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson says the Ted Cruz campaign makes a claim, in a 30 second television ad now playing in Iowa, that Donald Trump “colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow for a limousine parking lot at his casino,” which is an outright lie.
“The ad is very misleading. In fact, it outright lies about a widow’s home being bulldozed,” Pierson tells Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
“When you look at the facts, there is a process in place for eminent domain which was followed in this instance. Ms. Coking ended up keeping her property for years, because Mr. Trump didn’t purchase it, and it ended up saving him a fortune,” Pierson adds.
Pierson and Cruz campaign communications director Rick Tyler exchanged views on the ad on the O’Reilly Factor Friday night.
“To the Cruz ad, I would like to point out that ad is so misleading considering eminent domain abuse,” Pierson told O’Reilly Factor guest host Eric Bolling (beginning at the 2:40 mark of the show segment).
“The ad features a woman supposedly losing her property, which she didn’t. That woman kept her home,” she added.
“We’re not talking about the Keystone Pipeline or highways or bridges. What we’re talking about is a casino parking lot that was for limousines to pull up to the parking lot,” Cruz campaign communications director Rick Tyler responded (beginning at the 3:20 mark of the show segment).
“And a widow in Atlantic City lost her home over eminent domain, which was driven by Donald Trump,” Tyler asserted.
“She did not lose her home,” Pierson responded.
Cruz spokesperson Rick Tyler conceded the point to Pierson on Saturday.
“I misspoke about her losing her home,” Tyler tells Breitbart News in an emailed statement.
“But that doesn’t change what Mr. Trump attempted to do which was to take the home Vera Coking lived in for three decades because he thought the land would be better used as a park, a parking lot, and a waiting area for limousines. She had to defend herself from a lawsuit in order to keep her house. Fortunately, she prevailed,” Tyler adds.
“The ad is truthful in its telling of Mr. Trump’s attempt to have a widow’s home taken from her because it was in the way of his plans for his Casino which ultimately failed when Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts filed for bankruptcy,” Tyler contends.
The 30 second television ad put out by the Cruz campaign is now playing on stations around Iowa, where the first-in-the nation caucuses will be held next Monday on February 1. Polls show GOP front runner Trump and Cruz are locked in a tight race for the top two spots, with other candidates far behind.
The text of the relevant portion of the ad, which can be seen in its entirety here, reads as follows:
Narrator: “Like when Trump colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow for a limousine parking lot at his casino.”
Vera Coking [the Atlantic City widow whose house Trump unsuccessfully sought to purchase via eminent domain], from a video that looks to be from the 1990s: “He doesn’t have no heart, that man.”
In the 1990s, Donald Trump unsuccessfully sought to purchase her home through the use of eminent domain. He never succeeded in that effort. Coking won a lengthy legal battle to keep her residence.
In 2014, 16 years after the court battle ended and several years after Coking moved to California, her grandson sold the house at auction for $530,000, far less than Trump was willing to pay her in the 1990s.
As Breitbart News reported on this story earlier:
Reason’s [Damon] Root describes Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to use eminent domain to obtain the house of an Atlantic City widow, Vera Coking, two decades ago:
In 1994 Trump sought to personally profit from eminent domain abuse by using government power to kick an elderly widow out of her Atlantic City home.
This despicable event was made possible by a shadowy state agency known as the Casino Reinvestment Development Corporation (CRDC), which sought to take the home of a woman named Vera Coking, who lived just off of Atlantic City’s famous beachfront boardwalk, and replace it with a new limousine parking lot for the nearby Trump Plaza hotel and casino.
Thanks to the expert legal help of the Institute for Justice, whose lawyers represented Coking, the CRDC’s desire to wield eminent domain on Trump’s behalf was laughed out of court. “What has occurred here is analogous to giving Trump a blank check with respect to future development on the property for casino hotel purposes,” declared the Superior Court of New Jersey in a sharp ruling against Trump and the CRDC. Vera Coking stayed in her home.
“I was going to expand this hotel for 2,000 rooms. I couldn’t make a deal with her. In the end I didn’t do it. I would have paid up to $5 million for her house,” Trump told Breitbart News in October.
“Fortunately she held me up [in the development of that hotel]. I would have paid her $5 million and she saved me a fortune I would have spent had I built [the expansion],” Trump said, adding that he “was willing to pay Mrs. Coking about ten times what her house finally sold for.”
“It sold for half a million dollars a few years ago,” Trump said.
Trump’s account is consistent with this August 2014 report of the auction sale of Coking’s house in the New York Times:
An Atlantic City homeowner who became known for fending off eminent domain, Donald J. Trump and his multimillion-dollar offers finally sold the property at auction on Thursday. The price was $530,000.
The fight over the three-story boarding home turned the owner, Vera Coking, into a folk hero as she resisted Mr. Trump and public officials, eventually beating back an eminent domain suit in 1998 for an expansion of the neighboring Trump Plaza casino. Bob Guccione, the Penthouse publisher, also made an unsuccessful play for the property, on South Columbia Place, for a casino of his own in the 1970s.
Ms. Coking, who bought the boardinghouse with her husband for $20,000 in 1961, held out until she moved to a retirement community in California in 2011, at which point her grandson, Ed Casey, put the property on the market for $5 million.
But by then the fortunes of Atlantic City had reversed, taking Ms. Coking’s property value down with them. The Trump Plaza is poised to close in September, and other casinos are in distress. Last year, the price was cut to $995,000, almost twice the city’s assessed value of $580,000 from 2009.
While the saga brought renown to Ms. Coking, the new owners want no such exposure. Three of the five anonymous bidders at the auction, which took place in a parking lot next to the home, were represented by lawyers, including the winner, who will pay $583,000 including the commission, said Oren Klein, a managing partner at AuctionAdvisors, which handled the sale.
The Cruz campaign does not appear to have any plans to stop running the eminent domain ad in Iowa or elsewhere.