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NAR pushing for $40 dues increase

By: 26 March 2011 One Comment

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced it will consider increasing dues by $40 a year to pay for increased lobbying efforts on national, state and local levels.

The NAR’s timing might not have been great, considering that announcement came on the heels of another one from the trade organization showing that February was a very shaky month for homes sales.

The increase — which would go in place next year and continue in 2013 — will be considered at the NAR’s midyear meetings in May, according to a release detailing what the trade group has dubbed the Realtor Party Survival Initiative. What’s prompted all this? The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which effectively repealed the bulk of the McCain-Feingold campaign funding laws

That ruling effectively removes the limits on how much money corporations can spend on political campaigns,freeing lobbyists to fling “soft money” at candidates. Simply put, the NAR wants to raise more money for its political efforts and, in the aforementioned release, said it plans to dedicate half of its budget to those efforts.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the NAR spent over $6 million on federal political campaigns last year — 61 percent of the recipients were Democrats and almost all of them were incumbents. The new effort, if successful, could put over $80 million in the NAR’s hands for political advocacy in 2012 and 2013.

The NAR said the increase, if passed, will boost dues from the current level of $80 to $120 per year. Currently, however, members paid $115 in dues –$80 plus another $35 for the NAR’s Public Awareness Campaign that has been renewed and funded at varying levels in three-year cycles since it was put in place in 1998.

That $35 assessment was charged this year and will continue through 2013, meaning the additional $40 increase will put national dues at at $155 a year. The Survival Initiative, if passed, will be considered again as part of the 2014 budget process.

Here in the Natural State, the Arkansas Realtors Association put a $60 increase in place for 2011, upping members’ dues to $160 a year. If the NAR’s initiative is approved, Arkansas Realtors are looking at state and national dues going from the current amount of $275 a year to $315. There’s also the “three way agreement” to consider which mandates that members living in the jurisdiction of a local board of Realtors must join that organization and pay its annual dues, too.

Going back to the NAR’s initiative, the group says that two-thirds of it will go back to state Realtors associations for their own political advocacy efforts. That translates to per $26.67 per Realtor to state associations, meaning the Arkansas Realtors Association could realize $192,024 per year if current estimates of 7,200 members holds.

Here’s what’s significant about both the NAR’s plan and the aforementioned Supreme Court case that makes it all possible — organizations such as the NAR can shift from supporting candidates with exclusively “hard money” to “soft money.” Realtors throughout the nation are familiar enough with the hard money concept — that’s all money given apart from dues for exclusively political purposes. To handle that hard money, the NAR has formed the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC) and state associations have similar ones, such as the Arkansas Realtors Political Action Party (ARPAC) in Arkansas.

Now, however the NAR doesn’t have to rely on just hard money for political advocacy. No, it can now tap members’ dues dollars directly. Assuming the current estimate of 1 million members holds (and we know that could well drop) in 2012 and the NAR implements the plan to use half of its budget for political advocacy, then the group will receive $120 million in dues (remember, we’re not counting the $35 for the Public Awareness Campaign here), that translates into $60 million in members’ dues money spent on political advocacy in both 2012 and 2013. Add that to the hard money the NAR will likely continue to raise, and you’re talking about a lot of cash with which to buy influence.

One question that remains unanswered and will for some time has to do with how members will react to their dues dollars being spent on candidates they may or may not support. In the past, a Realtor who didn’t support candidates and issues the NAR was could simply refuse to donated to RPAC. That option will be gone should the NAR start using dues dollars to fund political efforts — if you’re a member, you’ll support the candidates the NAR does with your money whether you like it or not.

Should the NAR’s initiative pass, we’ll report on it here at First Arkansas News.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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