Success Out of the Gate

NAR chalks up wins in Congress and with new advocacy initiative.

January 11, 2013

President Barack Obama wasn’t the only big winner at the polls in November. REALTORS® also came out on top thanks to widespread victories by congressional candidates backed by the REALTORS® Political Action Committee. It was also an impressive first-year performance by the REALTOR® Party Initiative, the program NAR launched to put major advocacy and community outreach resources into the hands of state and local associations of REALTORS®.

RPAC, one of the most bipartisan PACs in the country, invested $15.5 million in the 2011–2012 election cycle, contributing to 457 House and Senate races and winning 427 of them for a 94 percent win record. The investments were split 54 percent for Republicans and 46 percent for Democrats.

The largest share of the money—about $7 million, or an average of $775,000 per race—went to nine congressional candidates whom RPAC trustees targeted for support through the PAC’s independent expenditure program. Eight of those candidates won, including Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.). He was author of NAR-backed legislation that would help restore private lending for residential sales and reform the secondary mortgage market in a way that would ensure safe, affordable mortgages in good markets and bad. Secondary mortgage market reform is expected to be on Congress’ agenda the next session, so Miller’s victory is an important one for REALTORS®, NAR analysts say.

REALTOR® Champions Carried the Day—Mostly

The independent expenditure program supports candidates for Congress that REALTORS® designate as “REALTOR® champions.” To meet federal election rules, such support must be given without coordinating with the candidates’ campaigns. In these races, REALTORS® appeal to the general public with TV, radio, and other ads, phone calls, and direct mail.

In another key California race, Democrat Brad Sherman retained his seat. Sherman shares NAR’s concerns over banking regulators’ proposed qualified mortgage and qualified residential mortgage rules. The rules would implement consumer protections enacted in 2010. The concern: The rules could be written so narrowly they would hinder lenders’ ability to make loans to applicants other than the most creditworthy.

Other NAR-supported winners on Nov. 6:

  • Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the FHA, who fought to protect higher FHA loan limits
  • Rep. Thomas Reed (R-N.Y.), a member of the tax-writing House Ways & Means Committee, who championed extension of the tax forgiveness on mortgage debt cancellation
  • Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, who backed FHA reforms to make condo financing more widely available

The lone defeat came in Illinois, where Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) lost to Democrat Bill Foster. Biggert, whose district had been redrawn, took the lead last year on winning long-term reauthorization and reform of federal flood insurance. Foster is a former member of Congress who lost his seat in 2010.

After independent expenditures, the next largest piece of the REALTOR® pie, $4.6 million, was direct contributions to candidates. These contributions are limited to $10,000 per candidate over the course of the election and must consist of so-called hard dollars, meaning the money must come from individuals’ personal accounts. In direct contributions, RPAC was the largest contributor to congressional candidates in the election.

RPAC also invested $1.4 million in 76 general election and 20 primary opportunity races. In these races, REALTORS® make calls and send communications to other REALTORS® to get out the vote. Another $2.5 million in President’s Circle contributions went to 37 candidates, of whom 36 won. President’s Circle dollars go to candidates of the contributors’ choice.

REALTOR® Party Exceeds Expectations

The program NAR launched in 2012 to support state and local associations’ advocacy and outreach proved hugely successful in its first year, with 550 state and local associations using program resources more than 3,000 times. “To go from zero to 3,000 instances in which the program was used far exceeds anything we expected,” NAR CEO Dale Stinton says.

The initiative, which combines some 60 new and existing political advocacy and community outreach programs under a single umbrella, achieved several milestones. Among them, the initiative:

  • Conducted 59 campaign polls last year, up from 17 in 2011.
  • Funded 242 independent expenditure races in 38 states, ten times more than in any previous year.
  • Moved 26 associations onto NAR’s online advocacy platform, bringing to 250 the number of ­associations on the platform.

“The REALTOR® Party is not really a program,” Stinton says. “It’s a philosophy. One of every 200 people in this country is a REALTOR®. That means in every community, at the park board, at the school boards, at the Chamber of Commerce, at the restaurant, walking down the street, REALTORS® are there. We will have achieved part of our objective with the initiative when the idea of the REALTOR® Party is as ubiquitous as REALTORS® are.” 

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.