The National Association of Realtors (no, not nar.org – that goes to a rocket website, just sayin’) recently announced what they are labeling a Realtor partyÂ political survival initiative with a proposed doubling of membership dues, the $40 increase beingÂ exclusivelyÂ dedicated Realtor Party political lobbying.Â Â NAR (housing NAR, not the rocket NAR) has asked for feedback on twitter with the hashtag #rppsi.Â To be honest, the $40 increase in dues doesn’t particularly phase me. I live in San Francisco where nothing is cheap, so I’ll just think of it as parking at a downtown garage while showing property for a few hours. The decision to dedicate the use of the funds to political lobbying and advocacy, however, doesn’t sit quite so well with me.
As an openly gay father, I turn queasy at the idea of my money going to support some gun-toting-teabagging-anti-gay-bigot who just happens to agree with the mortgage interest deduction. I suppose the flip side of that argument is that somewhere out in Realtorville there will be a gun-toting-teabagging-anti-gay-bigot who turns queasy at the idea of their money going to support a tree-hugging-latte-sipping-health-care-is-a-human-right-keep-your-laws-out-of-my-womb political candidate who just happens to support reform of flood insurance (here’s the list of what RPAC currently supports and lobbies for).
I also have concerns that the Realtor Party could easily suffer from “mission creep” – where issues that really have nothing to do with housing suddenly find themselves being issues that the party is either actively campaigning for or against. According to the FAQ at the RPAC website, decisions about establishing and implementing RPAC policy are made by the RPAC Trustees:
Leading the National RPAC organization are the National RPAC Trustees. The trustees establish and implement RPAC policy in accordance with the RPAC bylaws and NAR policy as established by the NAR Board of Directors. The trustees are made up of REALTORÂ® volunteers from around the nation who are appointed by NAR leadership.
This sounds like putting the combined dollars of approximately a million diverse Realtors in the hands of a very few people with the ability to easily make decisions with which members who disagree have no recourse or systemic form of appeal (full disclosure: I haven’t read the RPAC bylaws or relevant NAR policy. Maybe they already cover this). Which isn’t to say that a polling of the membership would be a better way to decide on issues advocacy. Regardless of which route you take, with a large and diverse membership you will eventually manage to offend or enrage a good chunk of them when you are spending their dollars in the modern political arena.
And lets be honest: if you want to be a member of your local MLS, membership in NAR isn’t optional.
To belong to almost any local Realtor board (that I am aware of) you must also join the state Realtor association and the National Association of Realtors. Will an unintended side-effect of this rush to step up NAR’s political footprint be the destruction of local board run multiple listing services (MLSs)? If me and 500 of my fellow local licensed agents decide we really want to cooperate in the sharing of our listings, but that we can’t stomach the idea of contributing to a political party that will be funding candidates who may have the right idea on housing issues but the wrong idea on issues that are of great personal importance to us individually, what’s to stop us from forming our own MLS or joining an existing alternative to our local MLS?
NAR also contends that all of this is a necessary response and reaction to the Citizens United supreme court decision. And I suppose that argument can be made, but I’m not certain that it is the inevitable or proper response to Citizens United. Perhaps the right response to Citizens United isn’t to ask the members of a diverse non-profit to pony up more dollars in an attempt to outspend the big boys, but to work on enacting legislation that would reform the role of money in politics and help to enact legislation that will undo a supreme court decision that was, IMHO, a horrible injustice against the average American citizen.
And finally, NAR, one more thing. In the talking points available from your website you say that this decision is “a game changer of gigantic proportions” and “it is as if the goal posts on a 100 Â yard football field were expanded to now cover 140 yards.” Please, take mercy on me and explain what, exactly, that means?
- Have the goal posts become dynamic on aÂ statically-sized field?
- Are we supposed to kick harder because the goal post is farther?
- Did the stadium get bigger?
- Is the goal post now firmly planted in the forehead of some unsuspecting fan?
- Are the goal posts in the parking lot?
I’m more confused over that metaphor than anything else, which is no small accomplishment given the haste with which it feels all of this has been announced.