WASHINGTON — The National Association of Realtors flexed its lobbying muscle to members at its annual midyear conference in the District Tuesday night, calling attention to its aggressive fundraising and social media advocacy efforts this year.
“We carry a lot of clout on Capital Hill and it opens doors for us when we come to talk to lawmakers about the issues that matter to us,” said Iona Harrison, NAR liaison for the Realtor Party disbursement, speaking on stage at a session at the Realtor Party Convention and Trade Expo.
NAR’s Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC) had raised $4.8 million by the end of April, $1.2 million more than it had raised by the same time last year, according to presenters. They said RPAC will make contributions to over 400 congressional and Senate candidates in the 2013-2014 election cycle.
According to campaign contribution records published by the Center for Responsive Politics at opensecrets.org, RPAC is the nation’s eighth-biggest political action committee, contributing more to the campaigns of candidates for federal office in the current election cycle than giants like Boeing, General Electric and the American Bankers Association.
According to opensecrets.org, 48 percent of the contributions RPAC has made to candidates’ campaign committees in the current election cycle went to Democrats, and 52 percent to Republicans.
NAR raised member dues by $40 a year in 2012 to boost spending on political activities in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which lifted limits on independent campaign expenditures. RPAC typically supports incumbents, providing the greatest support to lawmakers who serve on committees where bills that NAR opposes or supports are passed, amended or killed.
In the 2012 elections, RPAC made $3.6 million in independent expenditures on behalf of eight candidates for the House of Representatives — five Republicans and three Democrats — backing the winner in seven of eight races.
Another speaker highlighted new efforts to galvanize members into lobbying legislators through social media. More than 5,000 members participated in a Twitter campaign NAR launched to pressure senators to enact patent reform, sending over 10,000 tweets to their local legislators.
The speaker said that members need to commit only five minutes of their time a year to make a meaningful contribution to NAR initiatives if they use the Realtor Action Center mobile app, built to streamline the process of participating in NAR lobbying campaigns.
Issues NAR lobbyists on Capitol Hill are keeping a close eye on include proposals for tax reforms that could affect homeowners and real estate investors, regulations that affect mortgage lending including the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and potential regulations governing privacy and data Security.
In February, NAR President Steve Brown said the group was “extremely disappointed” with several of the provisions contained in a proposed overhaul of the tax code put forward by U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, including limits on the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains, and the repeal of deductions for state and local property taxes.
NAR recently launched an “Action Center” on realtor.com to alert consumers about laws, regulations and other issues affecting home ownership. Realtor.com, a listing portal operated by Move Inc. under the terms of an agreement with NAR, is the third-most visited U.S. real estate search site.
NAR has relied on HouseLogic, a site launched in 2010 that gets considerably less traffic than realtor.com, to spread the word about policies that touch on home ownership.
A NAR spokeswoman said last fall that the trade group was “exploring different ways in which we can collaborate with realtor.com” including content-sharing opportunities with HouseLogic, “to engage consumers across the homeownership life cycle,” she said. “That’s pretty much it at this point. Just exploring possibilities.”
NAR board member Danny Frank had called HouseLogic “a loser,” saying NAR had spent tens of millions on the site, which lacks listing listing search capabilities.