National Association of Realtors
The National Association of Realtors is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.
Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:
The National Association of Realtors raised
between January 2010 and December 2016.
Issue One identified
donors to this dark money group.
These donors collectively accounted for
of its funding.
According to its filings with the IRS, the National Association of Realtors has not received any contributions or grants since January 2010. The bulk of its funding comes from membership dues, program services and investments.
About the National Association of Realtors
Formed in May 1908, the National Association of Realtors touts itself as the largest trade association in the country, representing more than 1.3 million members in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The group strives to be “the leading advocate of the right to own, use and transfer real property” and to help its members “become more profitable and successful.”
Since August 2017, Bob Goldberg, a 23-year veteran of the National Association of Realtors, has served as the trade association’s CEO. The group’s current president is Elizabeth Mendenhall, a realtor from Columbia, Missouri.
While the National Association of Realtors does regularly communicate with its members about political candidates, that’s not the primary reason why the trade association ranks among the top dark money groups since Citizens United. In September 2010, the 501(c)(6) trade association formed the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund, a super PAC that has been primarily funded by the National Associations of Realtors itself.
In fact, roughly 95 percent of the $26 million raised by this super PAC between 2010 and 2016 came from the National Association of Realtors’ own coffers. (Campaign finance records show other large donors to the Realtors’ super PAC include electronic lockbox manufacturer Sentrilock LLC and the Center for Specialized Realtor Education, a subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors that provides trainings and educational services.)
And who funds the National Association of Realtors? According to the group’s tax filings, the trade association does not receive grants or contributions from other individuals or organizations. These forms show that the bulk of the money the National Association of Realtors collects is from membership dues, although some additional revenue comes from program services and investments. According to the National Association of Realtors’ website, its dues are currently $120 per person per year.
Notably, unlike most other super PACs, fully 100 percent of the spending by the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund has been positive, touting a mix of Democratic and Republican candidates to the general public.
In addition to advocating for policies in Washington that foster homeownership, the National Association of Realtors is also active in policy debates ranging from the National Flood Insurance Program to infrastructure spending to net neutrality.
Note: According to its filings with the IRS, the National Association of Realtors has not received any contributions or grants since January 2010. The bulk of its receipts come from membership dues, program services and investments.
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