With a real estate guy running for President, can any other contender capture meaningful industry support? Yes — Hillary Clinton, who has a long history of supporting Realtor causes and has been a happy beneficiary of the industry’s generous political largesse.

  • Hillary Clinton raised more money from the real estate industry than any other Democrat or Republican contender by a long shot -- a total of $2.69 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

With a real estate guy running for President, can any other contender capture meaningful industry support?

Yes — Hillary Clinton, who has been a happy beneficiary of the real estate industry’s generous political  largesse.

Hillary Clinton and the 2013 NAR event

Hillary Clinton at Moscone Center to talk to Realtors.

Hillary Clinton at Moscone Center to talk to Realtors.

When Clinton came on stage at Moscone Center in San Francisco on November 9, 2013, before a standing ovation of 10,000 Realtors, some chanted “Just Say Yes” — showing support for the former Secretary of State’s future Presidential run.

The press, cameras and recording devices were banned from the NAR Clinton love fest. You won’t find the speech on YouTube.

Like her other paid speeches, the National Association of Realtors event was expertly staged by the Clinton team, down to minutiae like specifying the type of  condiments that were to be on hand for the 68-year-old politico.

NAR paid a whopping $225,000 for Clinton’s speech and more in expenses.

Like most politicians who crave the real estate industry’s financial generosity, she hit the right notes, discussing homeownership and the importance of the industry. She reportedly told an endearing personal story about being a “Realtor’s nightmare” when she was house-hunting in Westchester County, New York, with a gaggle of Secret Service agents in tow — making a special connection with her Realtor audience about the hassles of working with high-drama homebuyers.

Contrast that message to her potential opponent Donald Trump who seems to revel in trashing real estate agents.

The speaking fee was a no brainer for NAR: the politically connected trade group brought a powerhouse name onto its convention stage and may have bought some favor with someone who could be the next President of the United States — outside of the strict financial reporting rules required when donating to campaigns. The six-digit NAR speaking payment enriched Clinton personally not her campaign. After considerable pressure, both Hillary and Bill Clinton disclosed their speaking fees last year.

This sort of deal is what boils the blood of some Americans who are tired of politicians having deep financial bonds with powerful special interests like NAR.

Clinton raised more money from the real estate industry than any other candidate

Clinton raised more money from the real estate industry (residential and commercial) than any other Democrat or Republican contender by a long shot — a total of $2.69 million, forty percent more than one-time candidate Jeb Bush, who raised the second-most from the industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

NAR is one of the most sophisticated industry lobbies in Washington, D.C., with a network of savvy lobbyists and well-funded local, state and national political action committees (PACs).

The powerful trade group is the sixth-largest spender in the 2016 federal elections, according to Responsive Politics. NAR’s PAC is dubbed the Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC), and supported Clinton in her US Senate races, but generally doesn’t contribute directly to presidential races, according to Realtors active in RPAC.

What does NAR hope to gain from its generous political spout that sprays money around to both Democrats and Republicans? Support on a handful of key issues: protecting private property rights, supporting the mortgage tax deduction and favorable capital gains treatment on real estate, and insuring credit availability for home loans through support for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA.

These are bread-and-butter issues — NAR is not selling high-priced prescription drugs; pedaling arms or polluting the air — it’s mantra is simple and worthwhile, homeownership. Politicians like Clinton, who have supported many of the Realtor positions, are generally on safe ground, and the organization has a reputation for operating above reproach. But it plays the political game like a pro, and that is at the core of the country’s current frustrations with PACs, lobbyists and politicians who willingly take the money.

The XX factor

The 2013 Clinton speech offered a less measurable but no less important connection to the industry.

Victims of job discrimination and gender tensions, many Realtors embrace Clinton in part because she would become the first female President of the US.

Many older Realtors faced bias and lopsided matrimonial laws, which is why they became Realtors to begin with. Divorced and left out to dry by their ex-husbands, many female Realtors got into the trade because it was the only way up and out. A powerful, smart and passionate woman candidate resonates well beyond the issues.

Of course, many in the industry bristle at the idea of another Clinton in the White House. Broker Fred Griffin wrote on ActiveRain, “Why would NAR bring someone as controversial as Hillary Clinton to our National Association of Realtors Annual Convention and Expo?  Surely there are other speakers who could unite Realtors, not divide them!”

A variety of other politicos have spoken at NAR events including George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Bill Clinton.

Class issues

Clinton may be a woman who connects to the real estate industry, but like Trump, she doesn’t belong to the same economic class of most Realtors.

From that single 45-minute speech in 2013, she earned 10 times what the average member of NAR generates from commissions in an entire year.

She and her husband Bill live in exclusive neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., and Westchester County, New York and they hobnob with the rich and famous from Wall Street and Hollywood and summer in the Hamptons, where last year they paid $50,000 a week for a four-bedroom beachfront Amagansett mansion, which features a 50-foot pool and a private beach.

In the end, most Realtors are not partisans, ideologues, nor are they very political; they are too busy making a living. And what they need from the politicians is simple.

“I’m going to vote for the strongest candidate who supports the middle class. A diverse middle class is my bread and butter. More middle class peeps buy homes than do the 1%. Not enough one-percenters are out there to keep my business booming,” wrote Realtor Laurie Balmer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, commenting on my article about Donald Trump.


Email Brad Inman

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