NAR Spends Millions for Washington Lobbyists

by James F. McClister

Flexing Its Lobbying Muscle

While NAR spending over the last 12 months may have been spread out among a myriad of candidates vying for a number of different political offices, there were certainly a handful legislative battles in which NAR tested its influence. Nowhere is that more true than in the fight to close the Export-Import Bank, which “would have dramatically reshaped the mortgage market,” according to Roll Call.

Thanks to efforts from strong housing proponents like NAR, the measure, championed by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), never made it to the House floor. But in a statement to C-SPAN, the Texas lawmaker vowed to make it a priority in 2015, which might mean more spending for the association in the near future.

Foreign Influence

Still, despite apparent victories, the question of spending hovers over NAR’s massive lobbying budget, as well as the group’s wider budget.

NAR doesn’t openly publish its annual budget, as is the association’s right, so determining the actual share of lobbying expenses to the overall budget is impossible. Chicago Agent requested access to the organization’s yearly financials, as well as a list of its current board members– to identify possible conflicts of interest – but, as of the writing of this article, NAR has declined to comment.

One of the biggest problems posed by the association’s lobbying influence and financial secrecy, as the online business news outlet Quartz recently reported, is the conflict of Congressional sway and nefarious real estate practices.

Billions in foreign currency comes through the U.S. real estate market every year. And while the majority of purchases fall within legal parameters, there is a portion of business that works to evade tax authorities.

In a 2014 NAR report, association researchers discovered that foreign buyers accounted for $92 billion in annual residential purchases, and of those, 70 percent paid in cash – up from 33 percent in 2007. It’s not illegal to pay for an American property in cash, but such purchases, for lack of a paper trail, can make it difficult for overseeing authorities to keep track of the exchanges. As a result, foreign buyers will sometimes use their newly bought U.S. property as a tax shelter, which is why so many properties in major metros will sit empty even after purchase.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in New York, from 49th St. to 70th st., between 5th and Park Ave., 30 percent of apartments are vacant at least 10 mo0nths a year.

“The biggest buyers in New York are from abroad,” Quartz reported. “They’ve got millions of Dollars, shell companies to protect their privacy and avoid taxes, and the desire for a beautiful nest egg that, for some, is also a source of rental income.”

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