At our Mid-Winter Board of Directors meeting this past Saturday, the California Association of Realtors® overwhelmingly voted on a motion out of the Political Affairs Committee to begin assessing every Realtor® the amount of $49 effective in 2011 for the purpose of funding our political activities.
At the urging of the Government Affairs Director sub-forum, CAR adopted the concept during our October meetings, directing legal staff to determine the most efficient way to implement the policy. The determination, published as an Issues Briefing Paper prior to Januarys meeting, recommended a ‘political assessment opt-over approach’, which was ultimately the direction voted on by the BOD. The opt-over provision allows the member to determine whether the investment amount shall be directed toward the Realtor® Action Fund or ‘opted-over’ to an alternative account.
A bit of history. Since 2000 the CAR political action committees (PAC’s) have grown and shrunk based on membership numbers and the real estate market. In the 2001-2002 election cycle, the PAC’s were funded by $3.8 million of voluntary political contributions. By 2006-2007, the PAC’s funding had increased to $10.1 million. In the past three years those receipts have fallen to just $2.5 million for 2009. As our organization faces increasing challenges at the local, state and federal level, that amount is simply not enough to keep us as a serious player in the political arena.
In addition to our ongoing local and state efforts, we are facing three additional challenges in the coming years that may require significant expenditures.
First there is a proposal on the June 2010 ballot to allow open primaries. If approved by voters this will dramatically increase competitiveness in at least 32 state legislative races. With more competition, the more costly each race becomes and the greater the demands [placed on our PAC’s.
Second, the 2012 re-districting will radically alter the political landscape for Senate and Assembly Districts. That may place additional demands on our PAC’s when combined with the potential for open primaries.
There will also be increased demand in both the 2012 (Gubernatorial) and 2014 (Presidential) election cycles.
With over $19 million spent during the past year, NAR ranks as one of the top ten lobbying organization in the country and the #1 grassroots trade association lobby in Washington. Having achieved so much on behalf of our members and for our customers private property rights, we cannot abandon that position now. We’ve invested too much time and money to make it happen, we can’tsimply walk away from the opportunity we’ve created for ourselves.
In 2009 voluntary contributions to our Realtor Action Fund fell to just 19% of members from a peak of 35% in 2004. That means 81% of our members were freeloading and letting a few of us carry the weight. That’s right. 81% of our members could not see their way clear to investing $49 in their own political survival. $4 a month was too great a burden. That’s less than a #3 special at In-N-Out, one latte, 2 lines in the classifieds.
The program has been vetted legally to assure it complies with California laws on campaign contributions and is consistent with other state and federal laws. No doubt the will be some legal challenges from people who would rather spend thousands on attorney fees than $49 for their own political survival – but CAR is confident it will prevail – especially since CAR is not the first or the only trade association to implement this structure. Dentists, teachers and others have long enjoyed a fund-raising advantage since all members invest in their PAC. And we won’t even talk about the unions or the recent decision by the Supreme Court allowing corporations to fund candidates from their general fund.
For those members with a religious or cultural aversion to political advocacy, you can direct your investment into an issues oriented fund that will not be used to directly support candidates.
This is a terrific move for CAR and one that has long been advocated as a way to equitably share the cost of our successful advocacy program across the membership rather than just saddling a few of us with the burden. It also means I won’t be hitting you up for a contribution every time I see you. That in itself should be worth $49 bucks.
There will be more information available on the CAR website soon and I’ll make sure that is posted for your review.