Fair warning, opinionated rant to follow”¦
At the Realtor Association Executives Institute (AEI) conference that just concluded, the National Association of Realtors announced a new initiative ”“ The REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative (hereafter referred to as the RPPSI).
Rob Hahn did a great job dissecting this plan in his article, BREAKING: NAR Launches a Political Party, Risks Its Future. Every Realtor out there would be well advised to read Rob’s post.
In a nutshell, the RPPSI will (if it passes the NAR Board of Directors vote at the Midyear Legislative Meetings in May ”“ and I suspect it will) require every Realtor to pay an additional $40/year as a “dedicated dues increase”. This money “would be used exclusively to fund political advocacy efforts”.
From one page on Realtor.org (you have to be a logged in member to view the entire page):
In March 2011, NAR launched the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative. The initiative will keep the REALTOR® organization among the most influential advocacy groups in America.
The initiative proposes a dedicated dues increase of $40. The proposal will be taken up by the NAR Board of Directors at the Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in May.
Because the dues increase is “dedicated” to this initiative, it would be used exclusively to fund political advocacy efforts. If it is approved, more than 50% of the NAR budget would be devoted to political advocacy, which consistently ranks among members as the No. 1 benefit they receive from NAR. Two-thirds of the dollars raised will be returned back to state boards to be used in support of local candidates, issue campaigns, and other political advocacy efforts.
My initial gut-instinct reaction to this proposal was that it is a “mandatory RPAC fee”. RPAC = Realtors Political Action Committee, and donations to RPAC have always been voluntary, albeit strongly encouraged by NAR and local and state association leadership.
I have never voluntarily donated to RPAC. I emphasize “voluntarily” because it was just a couple of weeks ago when someone approached me at a networking event at the Arizona Association of Realtors Winter Conference and said, “Hey Jay, I need five bucks!” Assuming they were headed to the bar, I gladly handed over a fiver. I was dismayed to see Mr. Lincoln shoved into the RPAC donation jar. I actually asked for it back and was met with laughter. Rather that cause a stink at a social event, I chose to let it go.
Let me make this perfectly clear ”“ I have no problem what-so-ever with anyone that choses to donate to RPAC (or any other political action committee. Or political party. Or candidate running for office). People are free to voluntarily donate to whatever their hearts desire. RPAC has done some good work, but like any PAC, some of what they support is questionable ”“ to me.
For me, who I chose to vote for encompasses FAR more than where a candidate stands on issues that might affect my profession, or housing policy, or any of the other things the NAR shall deem important or relevant. Sure, those things are taken into consideration, but there are many other factors that I consider before I pull the lever in the voting booth. (Pulls a lever in a voting booth? How old is this guy?)
My issue is with my trade association forcing me to provide money to political candidates and policies that I may not agree with.
And when this initiative passes, the NAR will be doing exactly that ”“ taking my money and giving it to candidates for political office. Candidates who I may ”“ or may not ”“ support and vote for.
Who gets my political money should be my choice, not the choice of the NAR, or some local or state Realtor association.
Let me make something else perfectly clear. I am not “anti-NAR”. I think the NAR does many things well. I also think they are lacking in some areas (chiefly in helping Realtors understand their industry and improve their business, and in improving the deplorable public perception of Realtors). There is no question in my mind that the NAR staff is made up of good people. I’ve met many of them and am proud to call many NAR staffer’s my friend. They want to “do right” by their membership.
In fact, I dedicate a lot of my personal time and somewhat significant personal expense to try and affect change within the NAR as well as local and state associations. I sit on numerous local, state and national committees, and I attend both the NAR Midyear Legislative and Annual Conferences, all on my own dime. I do this willingly because I strongly feel that to affect change in the behemoth bureaucracies these trade associations are, that one must “go inside” to be most effective.
This “Realtor Party” however, annoys me beyond belief.
Why this initiative will pass
The NAR, in my opinion, blew it in rolling out this initiative. They released the news at AEI ”“ a conference very few practicing Realtors attend. Why were association executives the first to hear about this proposed fundamental shift in the purpose of the NAR? Shouldn’t the MEMBERS have heard it first? You know, the ones about to get a 50% increase in their dues?
Why? Maybe because it’s the associations that need to sell this plan to their members.
Now the NAR, and the Associations, have a mere two months to spread the word amongst the membership before the change is voted on by the Board of Directors at Midyear ”“ another conference that isn’t attended by many members. If the NAR is “working for America’s property owners” then why is so much of the material about this initiative shoved behind the Realtor only wall of Realtor.org?
It almost seems like they are trying to sneak this whole thing past us. And the public at large.
My guess is there are a whole bunch of Realtors that won’t know anything about this increase in dues ”“ and more importantly a fundamental shift in the purpose of the NAR ”“ until they get their 2012 dues invoice. I’m sure the NAR and local and state associations will attempt to get the word out. But those attempts will be contingent on agents opening their email, snail mail or whatever method the associations chose to help spread the word. And reading that information. And giving a crap. And expressing their opinion before the BoD votes in May.
My guess is there are a whole bunch of Realtors that have no idea who from their state sits on the NAR Board of Directors ”“ the body that will be voting on this change in less than two months. Do you know your directors? There are 31 just in the state of Arizona (there are 110 in California by my count). You can find your directors here (log in required). You’re on your own to figure out their email addresses / phone numbers should you wish to contact them and provide your opinion on this matter.
Maybe I am completely off base
It’s not the $40 a year (well, $80 for us as the wife is also a Realtor) that bothers me. It’s the principle of the thing. I’m a big boy, I can decide who, if anyone, gets my political donations. In Rob’s article, he says the NAR could well lose a lot of members over this. I’m not so sure. I think there are many agents such as myself that are basically forced to join the NAR because their local association owns all or part of the Multiple Listing Service. If I want MLS access, I have to join these associations. The NAR could raise my dues to $1,000 a year, label it and spend it however they like, and I’d still have to pay them and be a member. Nothing like a captive audience”¦
It’s not a stretch, at all, to think of what the NAR is doing as the same thing any other labor union does. “You want to work here, you pay us whatever we dictate and we’ll do whatever we like with your money”.
I don’t have a choice. If this initiative passes, I’ll pay the extra money, and the NAR will send it to the candidates they deem fit and to push policies they deem will benefit… home owners? Real estate agents? State and local associations? Themselves?
And it matters not one iota whether or not I deem them fit.
A better solution?
Sorry, I don’t have one. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I do know what doesn’t sit well with me, and this initiative clearly qualifies as such. Someone will either publicly or privately chastise me for whining and not offering a solution. Oh well, so be it. Perhaps the NAR could beef up education on what RPAC is and does ”“ explain clearly how they benefit me as a Realtor. Maybe they could just pump up the groveling for voluntary contributions to RPAC. Spin up the already existing guilt trip placed on committee members who don’t donate. I suspect that was all considered and it was decided from on-high that it wasn’t enough. The easy solution seems to be to just jack up the mandatory fees. Bitching and moaning will commence from some, but most will just pay up, put up, and get over it.
If you are a Realtor, here’s the bottom line:
This initiative will be voted on by the NAR Board of Directors at Midyear in May. If you feel strongly about this ”“ either for or against it ”“ you should let your Directors know. That’s not easy to do because inexplicably, there is nowhere (at least that I can find) on Realtor.org where you can get communication info for your state’s Directors. Names yes, but it’s going to take effort and research on your part to actually communicate with your Directors. Your other option is to fly to D.C. and speak at an open forum that will (I assume) be held regarding these matters. Unfortunately that costs money and may be too late anyway ”“ most Director’s will probably have made up their minds on how they are going to vote long before that.
I’ll be emailing all my Directors with my thoughts (that will be more concise than this War and Peace length blog post). What you do is up to you.
Don’t think this is a fundamental shift in the NAR’s goals and purpose?
I’ll leave you with this…
From the National Association of REALTORS® Fact Sheet, on why the NAR exists:
Why: Working for America’s property owners, the National Association provides a facility for professional development, research and exchange of information among its members and to the public and government for the purpose of preserving the free enterprise system and the right to own real property.
Yeah, someone is going to need to craft a whole lot of new language surrounding the purpose of the NAR once they start devoting more than 50% of their budget to “political advocacy”.
As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome in the comments below”¦.