The real estate industry, between Realtors, builders, lenders and other professionals, has spent a total of nearly $957 million in the last 14 years lobbying Congress, with the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) spending making up 20 percent of that.
Already in 2012, NAR has spent $16.16 million lobbying Congress. The amount spent hasn’t quite reached last year’s total of $22.35 million, but it’s quite an increase from 2006, when NAR spent $6.63 million lobbying Congress. Since then, according to financial disclosures collected by OpenSecrets.org, the association has, with one exception, increased its lobbying efforts in each subsequent year, spending $13.86 million in 2007, $17.34 million in 2008, $19.48 million in 2009 and $17.58 million in 2010.
NAR’s lobbying funds contribute to a number of activities, both national and local in scope, according to the association. The vast majority of 2012’s lobbying funds – 73.5 percent, to be exact, or $11.88 million of the aforementioned $16.16 million – have supported grassroots activities for NAR’s Realtor Party Initiative, an effort by the association to galvanize support for Realtor-centric political issues and candidates who support those issues. Those activities include advocacy support services (such as voter registration databases and consulting services), fundraising initiatives for RPAC, NAR’s political action committee, and independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of candidates, which are the third-party campaigns that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling made possible.
The remaining 26.5 percent of those funds, or $4.28 million, have gone towards advancing and implementing the legislative and regulatory aims of the association via field operations, committee meetings and policy development sessions with members of Congress.
In addition to those expenditures, NAR employs seven congressional lobbyists in RPAC, along with 12 policy representatives who study the bills and political positions of Congressional members in such areas as taxation, financial services, technology and even health care. NAR’s Congressional Relations budget, which covers those labor costs, is 8.4 percent of the association’s total operating budget, or a little more than $2.75 million.
But real estate’s political activism, like the profession itself, ultimately comes down to people – people lobbying in Washington on specific issues relevant to real estate, people running for office to enact local change, people rallying support for public school referendums – and in speaking with some of those people, we discovered how member dues are spent, what issues real estate agents should pay attention to as the November elections draw near, and finally, how agents can get involved in the political process not just as voters, but as real estate professionals.