Comments on the New $49 Political Action Investment

CEO Connie Lynch recently sent out an e-blast  informing members of the recent decision by the California Association of Realtors® to spread the cost of political survival evenly across our membership rather than continuing to rely on 10% or 20% of members to bear the load. As expected, reaction was as mixed as it was during our BOD discussion at Indian Wells. But the over-arching result from the feedback we received was that some of our members remain sadly misinformed on political matters in spite of years of effort to educate them. I guess it’s the old ‘lead a horse to water’ dilemma where you can provide the information in a variety of formats and sources but you can’t force them to read it – until you catch their attention with money.

If you would like to read my earlier post on the subject, click here: Political Survival Investment No Longer Voluntary

If you are interested in CAR’s 2010 legislative activities, click here: CAR Sponsors 8 bill in session

So here are a few of the comments we received along with my responses to them. I suspect those folks won’t read this since they obviously didn’t read my earlier post on the topic – but we keep trying.

MS – Good Move. It’s for a damn good cause. Thanks!!
Thank you.
CR – I think it is totally reasonable to require $49 a year to support our political agenda.
Thank you.
PM – I doubt you want to hear what I have to say to your strong arm tactics.
Yes we do.
AF – Why can’t some of our meeting/convention people stay home for a change.
Well, we could do that but it really doesn’t have anything to do with this topic. Political survival will be necessary regardless of who travels where and this money is not spent for that.
BK – I will never give a penny to support CAR’s political activities. In addition I will recommend all Realtors opt over to an alternative account.
That’s why we created it as an opt-over. You don’t have to support Realtor® political activities even though you benefit from them.
KJ – It’s good to see socialism alive and well. I will be looking for a law group to make money fighting you.
Well, CAR already has law groups who have made money advising us this is OK but we anticipate there will be members who would rather spend thousands fighting this than invest $49 on their political survival.
JF – Apparently once a lobbyist is hired they can’t be fired so tax people more to keep them employed.
Our lobbyists can be hired or fired, although fortunately for our members our senior lobbyists have been around for years and are very effective on our behalf. But again, this money doesn’t go to pay our lobbyists so they’ll keep working for you regardless. Oh, and it’s not a tax – it’s a dues increase pure and simple. It’s the cost of doing business being shared equally by all who benefit rather than a few of us paying for most of you.
DA – Believe the board is treading in uncharted waters here and putting a lot more at risk than their pet political projects.
Well, these waters are hardly uncharted – numerous groups have been here, done that – it’s just new for us. As for our ‘pet political projects’, those are called Realtors® and our clients. If you look at the legislation we sponsor and support from the local to the federal level, every single piece is either for the benefit of Realtors® or to protect the property rights of your clients.
LM – I resent it!!!!!!!!
LC – This is completely out of line. You have stepped beyond your authority!!!!!!!!
It’s actually right in line with what needs to be accomplished for the Realtor® party and, no, it is within our authority!!!!!!!!
RD – Then you will not get the other $349 from me in 2011!
Then you will not be a Realtor® in California.
DD – Your lobbying at the beginning of the decade plus dictating to Lawrence Yun to disclose only optimistic news contributed strongly to what we are going through now.
Again, these funds have nothing to do with Lawrence Yun (NAR Chief Economist), who is widely regarded as one of the leading economists in the country, not just by NAR but by most economists and scholars. Not sure what lobbying we did that resulted in the sub-prime melt-down. Had our lobbying been more effective against the Barney Frank’s and Maxine Water’s of the world, GSE loan limits would have been raised 8 years ago and the whole sub-prime debacle could have been avoided. We also had nothing to do with Fed monetary policy or with the banks greed – but I’m certainly open to hearing where we went wrong.

Please feel free to chime in. We welcome your ideas and thoughts whether you agree with the decision or not. But keep a couple things in mind. Money raised for political action IS NOT SPENT for other purposes. It does not pay for salaries or travel or lobbyists. PAC funds are either spent on issues campaigns such as the extension of the 1st Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, or to defeat onerous legislation like last years ACWA sponsored home energy audit bill. PAC funds are also spent supporting local, state and federal candidates that have demonstrated an understanding of Realtor® issues and private property rights. In the 2008 election cycle that included supporting 9 local city council and/or water board candidates, 8 of whom were successful.

Pericles understood the concept in 500 BC when he said “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Like it or not, as a Realtor® you are part of one of the largest special interest groups in the country, and one with a noble cause – preservation of the American Dream of homeownership. If you think the only business of real estate is buying and selling houses, you’re working with only half the picture.

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  • Yvonne Baner-Nash

    A donation of $49 a year has been the recommended amount for years. It was sufficient to fund important issues when only 10-20% of the membership was voluntarily paying. It’s difficult to accept that involuntary dues must be assessed at that same rate. Why couldn’t the new mandatory “donation”, which will now be collected from 100% of the membership, have been substantially less? in view of the current economy, this is not the time to mandate a $49 annual increase in membership dues. Even a 5% increase in annual dues would work a hardship on many agents who are struggling just to make ends meet..

    • Several levels of investment were evaluated both for their impact on members and the ability to fund a viable program. The fact is, $49 from 20% of the membership has not been sufficient to fund the program without significant emphasis on major donors – those investing the $197 true cost of doing business as well as significantly higher levels. As more and more of the burden has fallen on fewer and fewer people, it became apparent that either the program suffered or a more equitable method of funding be explored.

      And while the timing may not be optimum to implement this, the timing is also working against us on another level. From the federal to the local level Realtors are increasingly under legislative attack due to the same economic pressures you cite. Last w year we had to defeat 6 point-of-sale bills in Sacramento. We have averaged one a year for the past 22 years but faced 6 last year. Everybody is looking for more money and Realtors are a fat target. You’re either going to invest in your political survival or you will be victimized by the lack there-of.

  • For Gene to imply that all of us who oppose the mandatory $49 increase in our yearly dues are politically uninvolved, or politically naive, is simply unacceptable. It smacks of elitism born out of his his far right wing political views.

    Why can’t some mechanism be developed that would allow individual members to support ONLY those positions in which they believe, and not support those positions which they feel to be against their own core political beliefs? Realtors, as a group, are better educated than JPQ and are certainly capable of understanding important local and national issues without needing “big brother” to tell us what to believe in, and/or work for.

    Phil Green

    • What is simply unacceptable is that 70% – 80% of our members remain disengaged from their own advocacy process, preferring to place the burden of support on 20% of us. You can use whatever rationalization you like to justify this lack of involvement but I believe if more members were aware of what the investment returns to them they would gladly step up. In just the past year we have increased the number of local investors at the $197 level fourfold by increasing our outreach and education. A better informed Realtor is a more involved Realtor.