The National Association of Realtors made some smart bets in the 2014 midterm elections, backing the winner in 11 of the 13 races that it pulled out the stops for, and helping Republicans regain control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House.
According to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, NAR made more than $10 million in independent expenditures during this election cycle, placing six-figure bets on eight House candidates and five Senate hopefuls including soon-to-be Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
That’s up from $3.6 million in independent expenditures in the 2012 election cycle, when seven out of eight candidates who received big backing from NAR were re-elected.
This time around, of the nine Republicans who got major support from NAR, eight were winners, as were three of the four Democrats.
One reason NAR is so successful is that the trade association almost always backs incumbents — particularly those who hold positions on influential committees.
When the 114th Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, three members NAR sees as “Realtor party” allies will return to their seats on the House Financial Services Committee: Nevada Republican Joe Heck, Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy and Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
Heck easily earned a third term in the House, winning 61 percent of the vote and trouncing Democrat Erin Bilbray. Murphy cruised to victory with a campaign war chest of $5 million, compared with opponent Carl Domino’s $500,000.
Sinema, first elected in 2012 in a tight race, won re-election to the House by a more comfortable margin.
One of the few races where NAR got behind a candidate who was not seeking re-election was in Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District, where the trade association backed one of its own: Republican Richard Tisei, broker-owner of Lynnfield-based Northrup Associates Realtors.
Tisei, a Republican who almost unseated Democratic incumbent John Tierney in 2012, was trounced by 36-year-old Seth Moulton, a decorated Iraq War veteran running for office for the first time.
Moulton had previously defeated Tierney in the primary, after Tierney’s wife was convicted of tax fraud, denying him a 10th term in the House.
Top beneficiaries of NAR independent expenditures (House, 2014 election cycle)
|Reed, Tom||R-New York||$621,349||WON|
The only other candidate who received major backing from NAR only to go down to defeat on Election Day was Alaska Democrat Sen. Mark Begich.
Begich still hadn’t conceded Wednesday morning, but his opponent, Republican Dan Sullivan, was ahead by several thousand votes, a lead seen by many observers as insurmountable.
The other four Senate candidates NAR threw its biggest support behind — including Republicans McConnell of Kentucky, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Pat Roberts of Kansas — are headed back to Washington, D.C., where McConnell is expected to take charge of the GOP-controlled Senate.
With NAR’s help, Cochran fought off a tea party-backed primary challenger to win a seventh Senate term.
Roberts came from behind in the polls to beat his opponent, millionaire businessman Greg Orman, not affiliated with either party, by a comfortable margin.
Top beneficiaries of NAR independent expenditures (Senate, 2014 election cycle)
|McConnell, Mitch||R-Kentucky||$1.89 million||WON|
|Begich, Mark||D-Alaska||$1.39 million||LOST|
All told, the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund made $10.3 million in independent expenditures through Oct. 15, with $6.53 million spent in support of Republican candidates and $3.45 million to support Democrats.
NAR’s Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC) also made $3.1 million in “hard money” contributions to the campaigns of dozens of House incumbents, with $1.59 million going to help fund the campaigns of Republicans and $1.51 million to Democrats. In the Senate, RPAC contributed $143,000 to Democrats’ election campaigns and $114,000 to Republicans.
Hard money contributions are limited to $5,000 per candidate in both primary and general elections, but the candidates’ campaign committees can spend that money wherever they think it will do the most good.
Since the Supreme Court struck down attempts to limit independent expenditures, NAR and other groups can spend pretty much whatever they want on Internet, television, and radio ads supporting a candidate or denigrating their opponent, but those efforts can’t be coordinated with the candidate they are trying to help. NAR raised member dues by $40 a year in 2012 to raise more money for political advocacy efforts.
NAR’s top legislative and regulatory priorities include protecting the mortgage interest deduction, preserving homebuyers’ access to FHA-backed mortgages, and making sure the government maintains a role in mortgage lending as lawmakers consider the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.