RPAC: REALTOR® Voice or Political Bribery? (NVRPAC too)

Bringing backroom discussions to the forefront appears to be part of the mission for VARBuzz.com , so I thank them for this opportunity!

Back to the post… I’m torn.

Give to NVRPAC and Virginia RPAC or not?

I’d like to discuss my understanding of what NVRPAC is (I could be wrong and I’m looking to your comments to correct me), and my dilemma on whether to contribute (which is not tax deductible).

NV/RPAC stands for Northern Virginia REALTOR® Political Action Committee. Their slogan is “Your bi-partisan voice in politics.” What else? I don’t know. A search for them brings up only 3 pages (here is one). They don’t own NVRPAC.com and they don’t have an interactive blog giving us updates on what they are doing. It has been run by Mary Beth Coya, the Vice President of Public & Government Affairs for many years.

I still don’t get it. To me it seems like “Give us money, don’t ask why, but we will push the REALTOR agenda. Thanks for the $200,000, now we can give that to candidates so they will listen to us.”

Is giving money to candidates a necessary evil?

So here is where the dilemma starts.

  1. I frequently disagree with the REALTOR agenda. For example, recently a transportation bill, which would raise taxes (backed by NVRPAC), was shot down as being unconstitutional. If my political belief is that government is too big, and we need less taxes, how do I justify giving them $100 to back something I am against?
  2. I also disagree with the message the REALTOR® associations put out, like the “It’s a great time to buy or sell a home” campaign. Yet two years later we are flooded with Short Sales and foreclosures.
  3. And here is the big picture issue that I have… Where exactly does the money go?The weblink above says, “Contributions go to candidates who are supportive of private property rights and who are sensitive to the REALTOR® point-of-view on key issues.”

Is it to help candidates win, or is it to buy a voice?

Do we give even $1 to a candidate that is ahead 30% in the polls? If so, it doesn’t seem like we are helping him win, instead it seems like we are buying the right to be heard.

One can easily say, “That is how it works in DC, either play ball or lose.”

But I am fundamentally against a Congressperson accepting $100,000 from a special interest group, that they are expected to regulate.

Yes we want our voices heard, but why do we have to give them $100,000 for that right? It seems more like a bribe. (Update 3-3-08: See comments for clarification on this number. Most donations are much smaller, but they have been as high as $50,000 for one candidate in one year and over $80,000 for a few candidates over a few years)

Maybe that is the process in DC, but what if you oppose the process?

So this is my personal debate. I’d love to see your opinion. And if you still want to donate, here is a link to contribute to NVRPAC online. Actually they only accept contributions by mail or fax or check. Cutting edge!

The hope is that this post will INCREASE contributions if that is what the REALTOR wants. I’d rather them contribute because they understand and accept the process, and not because they are told to, or are offered a raffle or a trip to Jamaica.

And here is a video on Youtube from Virginia’s RPAC.

I look forward to the discussion. I hope we all agree that discussing this is the best way to understanding it.

– Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker FranklyRealty.com

Update 3-3-08: P.S. The comments are better than the post. Don’t miss them!

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46 Responses to RPAC: REALTOR® Voice or Political Bribery? (NVRPAC too)

  1. Jeff Royce says:

    I couldn’t agree with your remarks more. I have a difficult time giving to a group that sometimes supports my candidates and sometimes doesn’t. It seems like I should just give to the candidates that I support.

    Obviously, we can buy better access as a group. That has to be the argument for any PAC. But our country is not helped when people buy access. We need to win our point of view with superior logic and arguments that make sense for everyone.

  2. Tchaka Owen says:

    Frank, that’s certainly a dilemma alright! There are a few things at play here and as to the dilemma you describe, that’s something only you can decide for yourself based on your beliefs. Ie, if I have different beliefs, I might not see it as much a dilemma as you do. But I will add the following comments:

    1. The purpose of a PAC is to push an agenda and I find the “and who are sensitive to the REALTOR® point-of-view on key issues” to be vague. Who falls under “REALTOR®”? I’m guessing it’s not the individual because our POVs will vary.

    2. I believe that a non-partisan PAC such as this should be much more transparent. You should know where your contributions, how they’re spent. And strong web presence is key and either a blog or at the very least a basic bulletin board is needed.

    BTW, I’m impressed that VAR allows this sort of discussion on their site without running to shut it down. Kudos to them!

  3. Hey Tchaka, I believe the information on who they give to is available. I just couldn’t find it.

    The RPAC video shows some % of Democrat vs % of Republicans.

    Frank

  4. I’d love to see a comment directly from the RPAC with their feedback to help us better understand this issue. – DROdio

  5. Jim Duncan says:

    I’ll agree that political donations are a form of bribery, no matter how they’re couched or defended – but they’re necessary. Lobbyists are, for better or worse, how things get done in our political system. The “other guys” are doing it, so we have to.

    At the local level, RPAC funds are most useful, as they directly impact how we Realtors do business, and they also serve to protect the interests of buyers, sellers, property owners, et. al.

    I’ve asked for the dollars we’ve spent as an Association, and I’ve seen how much we spend – it’s a lot, and generally (IMHO) money well-spent.

    Speaking from a local point of view (Charlottesville) we don’t give money based on parties, but on the issues, and we have a pretty good track record so far.

    The easy answer is to tell people that they should get involved in their local and state RPAC groups, but I do understand that the uber-political nature of some of the larger associations stifles such involvement and debate.

    If you don’t give a lot of money to RPAC, at least give $10 – being able to go the respective candidates and elected officials and say that we have X number of Realtors ready to motivate is extraordinarily powerful.

    Two notes –

    1 – VAR’s website isn’t nearly as functional as it should be, but I have faith that it’ll get better.
    2 – As as association, we should have a PAC blog, even if it’s only for the members (but we should also have a public engagement of the blogs as well).

    * Disclaimer – I am a former local RPAC Chair. :)

  6. Jim Duncan says:

    And just to second Tchaka’s point:

    BTW, I’m impressed that VAR allows this sort of discussion on their site without running to shut it down. Kudos to them!

  7. Until running a campaign can can be done completely for free, political donations will be necessary. I disagree with Jim’s assertion that political donations are a form of bribery. Bribery, by definition means that the person receiving the money is doing so in exchange for something they would not otherwise do, or something that is against their beliefs, ethics, etc. If political donations are bribery, than so are donations to charities of any kind.

    Personally, I do not give money to any PAC, REALTOR-related or otherwise. I look at it like this– I do not want their to be any chance that the money that I give will be donated to candidates that I would not support. If I want to support a candidate, I will make the donation myself.

    I do support the lobbying efforts of RPAC. America is a country BUILT by special interests. Our entire system of government has intentionally been set up to pit special interests against each other. In the end, each of us represents a special interest of one. Typically, when people talk about the evil of special interests controlling politics, they are talking about the special interests they don’t support, not the ones they do. I don’t think that anyone would argue that teachers or doctors or police officers or firefighters shouldn’t be able to lobby congress on issues that affect them.

    So, in the end, I would love to support RPAC, but I’m not going to give them any money until they stop using it to make donations directly to candidates.

    And to echo the sentiment of others, kudos to VAR for providing a venue for this every important discussion.

  8. Scott Brunner says:

    Frank — I’m (way beyond) disappointed that 1) you’d use this blog as a tool for furthering your grudge-match with NVAR (and face it, as righteous as your cause may or may not be, you DO have a grudge against NVAR); and 2) that someone with your savvy wouldn’t check your facts a little better before you fired off a broadside like the one above. Who RPAC contributes to…and the amounts…is readily available online from VPAP. You’d have found it if you had looked. Or you even could have done something wild and crazy like ASK US for the info. Look, it’s perfectly find to have a debate about the merits of RPAC, but you went off half-cocked and ill-informed — perpetuating the myth that so many bloggers are village idiots who spout opinions not grounded in fact and stir folks into an ill-informed frenzy as a result — and you’ve damaged the credibility of VAR and this blog. I respect your expertise, Frank, but I’d have expected better from you.

    One more thing: you’re in business because of the track record and influence leveraged over many years via RPAC, bud. Like it or not. You may not approve of all the choices the PAC trustees make, but the record of accomplishment is unassailable.

  9. Scott Brunner says:

    Find VPAP at http://vpap.org/

  10. I can’t speak for NVAR members, but I do know that CAAR gives us an account of who gets the money and how much. I haven’t seen it in a while, so I don’t remember if the list includes donations to all of the VA candidates and legislatures, but I have seen those numbers, as well. Actually, the list is what formed the basis for me not wanting to donate my money. In reality, I would much rather donate my time than donate my money to RPAC. I’m always in control of my time.

    I know nothing of whether or not Frank has a “grudge” against NVAR. I do think, though, that if Frank has these questions, and is having trouble finding answers, others are certainly having the same issues. That difficulty is something that might deserve further consideration.

    I have often felt that people would much more freely give time and money to RPAC if they had a greater understanding and appreciation for what the PAC’s do and achieve. If I remember correctly, VAR sent out what I thought was a very effective postcard to members around election time last year that outlined some of the benefits derived from the efforts of our PAC’s. More of the same is necessary if donations are to continue and even to increase.

    People are cynical about politics in part because of what they perceive as a back-room culture that pervades the process. It would truly be a shame if people came away with the same mistaken impression of our PAC. The issue is to remain committed not only to continuing the success of our PAC, but also to ensuring that those successes are promoted to and appreciated by the membership.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Scott-
    It seems like Frank was trying to start an intelligent discussion in an attempt to learn more about the topic: “I’d like to discuss my understanding of what NVRPAC is (I could be wrong and I’m looking to your comments to correct me), and my dilemma on whether to contribute ”

    I looked at http://vpap.org/ to see if the slogan was correct:
    “Their slogan is “Your bi-partisan voice in politics”.”

    Here’s what I discovered:
    NVAR
    Republican: $23,500 (30%)
    Democrat: $55,990 (70%)

    Hampton Roads
    Republican: $12,950 (72%)
    Democrat: $5,000 (28%)

    VAR
    Republican: $380,349 (63%)
    Democrat: $208,654 (35%)

    Richmond
    Republican: $23,125 (57%)
    Democrat: $13,500 (33%)

    Maybe Frank is confused by the mixed messages. Shouldn’t the Realtor message be similar throughout the Realtor party?

    Political action is a personal choice that each member of an association should come to by way of an informed decision. When I’m told to give my fair share to RPAC, I want to know what I’m donating for. I think Frank raises some very interesting points that should not be dismissed by insinuations that he is a “village idiot”.

    Perhaps an explanation of the benefits of RPAC, some web links to sites showing their track record would have better served a point. How many Realtors really know what RPAC is or what it does??

    I’m not sure how he has damaged the the credibility of VAR or the blog by asking questions and giving his opinion. This is what a blog is supposed to do? it is a forum for interested parties to have a public debate.

    And I agree with Franks sentiment-why the heck can’t I contribute online?

  12. Jim Duncan says:

    To clarify my “bribery” point – I wasn’t writing it with a necessarily negative connotation. Witness Merriam-Webster’s definitions of bribes:

    “1 : money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust
    2 : something that serves to induce or influence ”

    If we’re not trying to influence politicians, we’re not using our money wisely.

    I’d argue that that is what any lobbying firm is trying do when they give money to their candidates of choice. Sure, some individuals likely give for altruistic reasons, but PACs are set up (from my limited understanding) to lobby for the group that they represent –

    Virginia Realtors have and give a lot of money, and I am thankful for that. Do I personally disagree with everything they do? No way, but I do trust that overall, my business is far better off having them lobbying for my best interests.

    There’s a lot of money being raised in the Commonwealth, and I’d wager they’re not doing it because it makes them feel good. We all have agendas, but so long as we’re transparent and honest about it, then I’m (mostly, if not grudgingly) OK with the status quo.

    (I tried to do blockquotes on my previous comment but it didn’t take)

  13. Scott Brunner says:

    Sorry, Frank, for the tone in my comment. My fingers can get ahead of my reason when I feel strongly about something.

    To ‘Anonymous’: I didn’t suggest Frank was the village idiot. I said his ill-informed comments…presented as fact…perpetuate that myth. Frank’s a very smart guy. I know him. And I simply think he could have been more responsible in his assertions.

    I DO think Frank’s questions about RPAC are valid, and I certainly don’t want to squelch that debate. In fact, I’m soon to make a post here to serve as primer on RPAC processes and policies (how it works), so that at least we all have our facts straight. But Frank’s assertions are off…some of them way off. $100,000 contributions to Congressmen? NO. There are federal limits. Et cetera. And what RPAC stands for and who we give to? That’s info easy to obtain. Among other places, see http://www.varealtor.com/LegislativeAffairs/REALTORSChoose/tabid/514/Default.aspx (it’s a bit dated; we set it up for last fall’s elections).

    We write about RPAC, send mailers, talk about it at meetings. And candidly, the fact that someone as savvy as Frank can get it wrong makes me think the problem isn’t with Frank, it’s with our communications.

    Ultimately, though, what concerns me about Frank’s post is that it was not about RPAC so much as it was an another salvo against NVAR. And I resent that he used our blog for that.

    One more thing: I have no idea why we don’t do online contributions. We should. Let me work on that.

  14. Ben Martin says:

    Fundamentally, PACs are all about making monetary contributions. PACs don’t lobby. They distribute money to candidates and legislators. So with all due respect, Daniel, if you hold to your conviction, there’s no chance that you’ll ever give a dime to any PAC.

    PACs are a successful public policy tool because they harness collective resources for the good of the order of the people that they represent. Inevitably, someone will feel disenfranchised by the PAC’s decisions. But to effectively represent the good of the order, individual points of view must take a back seat. This is a hard thing for many people to understand.

    It would be great if I could stay slim and healthy by eating a constant diet of double cheeseburgers and pizza and buffalo wings. But I can’t. It would be great if our legislative system wasn’t affected by money. But it is. Wishing for the day that money no longer affects our political process may be an enjoyable daydream, but it doesn’t serve the collective interests of REALTORS right now. I think we need to deal with the realities we face with the tools at our disposal, not wish that our circumstances were different.

  15. Pingback: Essential RPAC, for those who need to know | VARbuzz

  16. Ben,

    I agree with everything you said (go figure). And you are exactly right, I donate any of my money to any PAC’s with the exception of my chosen party. Like I said, I would much rather donate my time when I can, than give my money.

    My basic philosophy is this: I am a citizen FIRST, and a Realtor SECOND. I don’t select candidates based soley on their positions that would effect my real estate business. It may be a factor, but it is not a determining one.

    I have absolutely no problem with and PAC donating to any campaing. Money is completely necessary in politics. But I want to be the one who chooses where my money goes.

  17. Martin K. Johnson says:

    [blogmaster’s note: by way of introduction, Martin K. Johnson is VAR’s Director of Government Affairs & Chief Lobbyist]

    I have watched this debate forge forward over the past 16 hours and do see some continuing themes…first, I think that there are some philosophical issues that some face with giving to RPAC, to the national Democratic party, the national Republican party, a federal, state or local candidate or any other political organization or candidate. I understand and respect their decisions.

    As one of those lobbyists (most notably, your lobbyist) having cut my teeth in political campaigns and working with and around candidates I know all too well the hesitancy many people have to contributing….even to the most basic right we all have….casting a vote. Understood and accepted.

    Second theme…people do not understand the mechanics of RPAC and what we use the money for.

    We are improving the distribution of information regarding our state PAC. We have a great story to tell as to what RPAC is, what we do with the hard-earned dollars that our members contribute, the scrutiny that is involved in garnering our support (as a candidate), the respect from members of the legislature our PAC has generated for its ethical system of contributing to candidates and the reciprocal victories we have had in the legislature because we were there to help candidates who support you as a REALTOR.

    Someone mentioned the postcard we mailed before the elections. Did anyone go to or access http://www.realtorschoose.com during the election season? Not the greatest web-site ever designed, but a source of knowledge about candidates, where RPAC was using its money and why, daily news feeds and past history.

    Ben and Scott hit the nail right on the head…RPAC does not lobby, but lets be real…RPAC helps elect candidates who support you ALL as REALTORS.

    Needless to say, it has not been a great time for you guys….every day, VAR lobbyists find ourselves defending your business models (as many as there are out there) and working with RPAC-supported legislators to ensure we keep the pro-business environment we have in Virginia, thereby protecting your business opportunities….whether you contribute to RPAC or not, but again, lets be real and bring this full circle, it is far better to lobby your issues in front of those legislators who support you.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to add my opinion.

  18. Tony Arko says:

    I think this discussion illustrates the chasm that is developing between the generations in America. It is my opinion that the main issue does come down to communication. Some people, myself included, will not accept the current explanation of what RPAC does, or who it supports. The value proposition of past accomplishments and supporting all Realtors is no longer enough. The newer generations look at raffles for vacations or quotas or your name in a program as a deceptive way to generate contributions. If it is such a good cause and it does so much good for all realtors, why do we have to be tricked into giving.

    The younger generations have no problem giving to causes but they need to know everything about the cause, all the players involved, the consequences if the cause is defeated and they must be able to have open discussions about these things before any contributions are made. If you want the younger generations to contribute and get involved, you need to be more transparent, more open, and more engaging.

    There are links to websites but the websites are old and static. Take some of the money that has been contributed and build something reflects how important the RPAC really is. Bring it out from the back rooms.

  19. First, in my opinion this is EXACTLY what I think this blog is suppose to be and I applaud Frank for being brave enough to go on VAR turf and voice his opinion. From rhetoric and debate will come some truth. Scott, please don’t be offended but, take this opportunity to educate incorrect perceptions or lack of understanding. I think that Frank has voiced the frustration of a majority of REALTORS. I didn’t fully understand untill I took a year in VLA to learn about it.

    We are seeing an hyper-activity from the emerging generations in the political realms and anyone that has studied generational trends, will understand that we (GEN Y / X) need to understand. We’re not going to do anything that you haven’t convinced us to do. Good or bad it’s a direct result of the Baby Boomer generation who has taught us to be good stewards and trust no one.

    I think the current primaries and the increased number of voters that have come out and the direction they’ve gone should tell us that we’re tired of how government has been ran. For better or worse many are ready for some change…

    Lobbyist are extremely necessary and getting our GAD’s in front of local elected officials has paid it in dividends. My favorite example recently was the RPAC funds being used in the past few years to argue against increases in the Grantor’s Tax. This was not at all in the consumer’s best interest, but who else was going to fight it, other than VAR and the locals? Did it help us to help them? Of course, so does giving good service as a practitioner. We get paid to help the consumer.

    The list goes on, but that’s my opinion…. Unfortunately, I think that the failures in our system are public, but our successes are private. That is a communications issue and communications with both elected officials and members is my intent when I invest in RPAC.

    As far as the necessary evil “Hate the game and not the player”…. We sometimes forget that when a member stands against the association, it is damaging to everyone. I know that Frank has or is trying to get involve in leadership at his local association and is attempting to keep everyone accountable in the best way that he knows how. It’s the Associations job to hear this and respond appropriately.

    Caution to everyone here… Sometimes making a phone call can help resolve a lot of perceptions on all sides. It’s a lesson that I have still yet to master :)

  20. Jeremy Hart says:

    Some great conversation on this one. Scott, thank you for (a) engaging and being a part of the conversation, (b) clarifying your position, and (c) taking the time to relect on whether VAR’s actions are hampering understanding. This is just one of the reasons I’m proud to be a part of VAR.

    I’m interested in your upcoming post, Scott – particularly, how do the PAC’s actually determine where the money is distributed. Perhaps that’s obvious to the majority of readers here, I’m hoping to get caught up to speed.

  21. Oh yeah, one more point. Seems to me that a lot of people talk about the ascetics of a different sites. It doesn’t have to be pretty to work. Sometimes (this isn’t directed at Frank, but everyone) I think we’re so accustomed to being catered to that we don’t take time to do some good old fashion research. The internet has spoiled us, as much as it’s helped us…

  22. I appreciate the ability to combine my funds with others in a way that can make a group statement. When we give to an organization, we are grouped together. Now it is “We” instead of “I.”

    Often if just “I” have an issues, then very little gets done. But “we” can make a difference.

    I agree that I want my contributions to go to organizations/issues that I feel are important. Some years we give more to RPAC than others. Some years there are other organizations that are pushing more issues that touch me more at the heart than the pocket.

    Let’s give a round of applause for accountability! Being informed with where the money goes will keep all of us accountable. And with that information, we can make the best decision as to who or what to support.

    ** Personal Concern: What’s best for Realtors is not always what’s best for VA.

    ** Personal Concern: My RPAC funds may go to support a candidate that I completely disagree with in other areas.

  23. Tony Arko and Matthew Rathburn,

    Very well said.

    In response to Scott Brunner’s
    “Look, it’s perfectly find to have a debate about the merits of RPAC, but you went off half-cocked and ill-informed — perpetuating the myth that so many bloggers are village idiots who spout opinions not grounded in fact and stir folks into an ill-informed frenzy as a result — and you’ve damaged the credibility of VAR and this blog. I respect your expertise, Frank, but I’d have expected better from you.”

    Scott, Frank Llosa raised great questions and dilemmas that he and many of us have about PACs. In doing so and being transparent/vulnerable about why he struggles with PACS he was being sincere and encouraged somebody to put out some more info on the subject. What you owe Frank, Scott, is a big thank you for giving you a platform and opportunity to provide more information to us on the subject.

    I’m not too concerned about the credibility of VAR as much as I’m concerned about my and other realtors’ credibility to consumers. And in case you haven’t figured it out, nobody has more credibility with consumers (buyers and sellers) than Frank Lllosa. Read some of his blog posts such as this: Short Sales are Fake Listings–Only 5% Close. Does that sound like a village idiot to you anybody? No, it sounds like a master agent equipping consumers to win at real estate and that expertise and transparency boosts the credibility of realtors (categorically) everywhere. That is the bottom line result from RE bloggers who raise and acknowledge tough questions on any issue based on principle of truth and excellence versus blind support for something because somebody told me that’s what I’m supposed to do in order to be a good realtor.

    Asking the hard questions on any issue or org is what responsible citizens do–and it doesn’t make them guilty of hurting the organizations credibility. In fact it builds it up by showing that the truth is being sought out versus a blind following of the powers that be.

    Kudos to you Frank for an excellent post–as usual.

    And kudos to you, Scott, not in your initial and juvenile response to Frank, but rather in your excellent post on RPACs that followed from which I learned much. We do hope RPAC will set up an RSS blog keeping us up to date on specs. It’s much more efficient than postcards. As I told my broker. You may not like the brutally honest discussion/posts I have on the market or the industry, but you’re not my client. The consumers love it though and they are who matter. The Gen X/Y realtors are the future of the industry and it’s time to work with us better on these issues and that would include a well updated site/blog that keeps us in the know. We love accountability and transparency, Scott, just like consumers we represent.

    I think the idea of everybody giving $10 would show that tons of realtors are serious and paying attention to what is going on. The numbers of us who gave would be used to show a large influence and informed group who will hold you accountable….”Mr. Politician, this many realtors contributed $$$ this past year to us. They are paying attention to issues X,Y,Z and are very organized. blah blah blah.” But showing a specific and large # who actually made a dollar contribution is where the power lies probably.

    jay

  24. Scott Brunner says:

    Sorry you felt my preliminary reply was juvenile, Jay — it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something juvenile — but please re-read it carefully. As I said in a later comment and will say again here, I in no way called Frank the village idiot. What I suggested was that credible bloggers have an obligation to get their facts straight and check things out before they throw out assertions as fact (the $100,000 contributions to Congressmen that Frank mentioned, etc.). If I’m a reader and don’t know any better, I’d take Frank’s assertion on that and other points and be horrified that my association might be doing that. We’ll, we’re NOT doing that. In the same way that we all tend to deride the news media lately for being selective or incomplete or lopsided in the story they tell about real estate markets, etc., readers make the same evaluations of bloggers. And as the blogging audience grows, it’s all the more imperative that we be factual and not perpetuate errant myths. Like I said earlier, the RPAC debate really is a good one, and this is a great forum for it, but to start it by making assertions about RPAC that aren’t true and that inflame the debate rather than inform it, aren’t helpful, and damage the credibility of varbuzz (and I think, respectfully, the credibility of the blogger). I’m just glad that what started as a broadside against NVAR has turned into a really productive debate here. And I will assert again: It’s clear that VAR has to improve our communication on the subject — both our messages and our vehicles.

  25. Jeff Royce says:

    Scott,

    My respect for VAR has gone up tremendously by the fact that you have let this discussion go on, and participated in it instead of taking it down, ignoring it, or putting outside pressure on Frank to take it down (I talked to him today and he assured me nothing of the sort had happened). It’s obvious that this post questions a major focus of the VAR, but you still let it happen.

    In this day and age where we are all impressed by transparency you have given a tremendous example of what that really means. I would not be at all surprised if people who read this end up giving more to the Realtor PACs.

    When I run into other agent’s online they are starting to react to the fact that I am from Virginia. You and Ben have given Virginia Realtors a reputation for being on the forefront of technology. Agents from other states have taken notice. Thanks for your willingness to go out on this limb. I’m thankful we have that kind of leadership at VAR.

  26. Scott Brunner says:

    Jeff — Thanks Jeff. I’m just hoping I’m still employed this time next week! ;-)

  27. Jay says:

    I’m mailing my $10 tomorrow to add another 1 to the # of contributing members. I think that is what is important more than the dollar amount itself–the number of contributors. I must say that perhaps I’m totally wrong on this.

    However, I will second that VAR is getting attention from realtors across the nation and they are impressed. And yes this discussion will increase the # of contributors ironically enough. However if VAR continued getting more members to check out the Buzz there would be even more contributors I’m sure. That is part of VAR’s challenge–getting members to even look here….

  28. I need to ditto Jim Duncan’s remarks. RPAC money is used for gaining favor, not because we like it, but that is the way the game is played, and we need to make sure we are part of the game.

    DAAR opposed the Transportation Bill because it contained the Grantor’s Tax provision which we opposed as advocates for our Property Owners.

    We advise our members who we support, and why, if members what to know how much we contributed to a candidate, we will supply that information upon request.

  29. Pingback: A reason I’m proud to be a member of the Virginia Association of Realtors | Real Central VA

  30. PULL MY BLOG POST PLEASE- Details below.

    Hello,

    I’m back from a couple days in West Virginia with limited internet and phone. Looks like everyone has been busy.

    Anyhow, I propose that we PULL MY BLOG POST.

    Let me be clear that VAR in no way asked me to do this. This is my uncoerced suggestion.

    While I didn’t (and still don’t) think that the post was an attack on NVAR (and I didn’t see any non-VAR
    comments that thought it was) this post is in VAR’s house. If they call it inappropriate, then I should take it down. I do NOT want this to be the “I told you so” or posterchild for why an association should NOT have a blog.

    I do want to also take a moment to apologize to Scott Brunner (CEO of VAR, you gotta remember to put your title here). I meant no disrespect in my post. Yes I have issues with NVAR, and even though I thought they were all wrapped up, and I agree that this isn’t the place to unwrap them, apparently I didn’t succeed in your eyes in hiding it enough. Also, and I think you might agree, the more important discussion, about RPAC, was clouded.

    WHY I WROTE IT:

    I’d like to add the perspective from which I wrote the post. I don’t think it has anything to do with any NVAR grudge. It goes back a couple of years when I felt shamed into giving to RPAC. I gave $100 when confronted by the RPAC fundraising chair. I didn’t feel comfortable giving the money, as I didn’t understand the process and I hate giving under pressure, but this person was so nice, so I caved.

    Then I ran for the NVAR Board and was in front of the Nomination Committee. I was grilled on RPAC and if I had given. I said truthfully “yes,” but that I gave reluctantly and that the message wasn’t in the form that my generation understands. For examples, postcards with why to contribute don’t cut it in my world.

    I have also attended an RPAC fund raising meeting, and I still didn’t get it. To me, it seemed to be about the money, not the message. The new chair, for which I have the utmost respect, was focusing on a higher % of contributions, while the
    VP of Public & Government Affairs was focusing on total dollar amounts. The goals did not seem aligned. I also tried to express how I don’t own a checkbook or fax machine, and how they are missing the online payment generation. I don’t feel my voice was heard, I was still confused, so I decided not to return to support that group’s efforts.

    So with the post, I think I can say that with my limited knowledge, I knew more than 80% of Virginia Realtors, which is sad. I think we can agree that this is a problem.

    Couple that with the political season and talk of “CHANGE,” I have started to question the process more. A video on Lessig08.org in California is the inspiration for the concept of:

    Why do we allow money to rule Congress? How can we have change if we allow Congress to be influenced by special interests that they are supposed to regulate?

    And with that, I started to ask… do I want to be a part of that process?

    **

    As for my inaccuracies, I did not intend for my numbers to be factual (I know that sounds crazy, but keep reading), instead they were my understanding (or misunderstanding) of the process that I wanted to put on the table. I was expecting and hoping to be corrected.

    Blogging for me IS asking. Instead of an email to get all the facts and write a news story (the old way), it is instead a conversation. So I asked for clarification and answers were given. I again applaud VAR for embracing this new media.

    I love the Vpap.org link that Scott supplied everyone (if it was in an email, only 1 person would get that link, on a blog, hundreds got it) were supplied and I spent a couple hours going through them. I can now guess that puts me in the under 1% of Realtors that have looked into what is going on. I also found http://www.opensecrets.org to have a wealth of information.

    What I think I found (which means I hope to be corrected, if incorrect) was that the contributions per candidate, all in all, were MUCH smaller than I expected. However, upon researching a little further, I did find some large contributions. So my comment about the $100,000 to a congressperson is not as far off as implied in the follow-up comments.

    This is what I found:
    Total contributions to date to candidates by VPAC or NVRPAC:
    1) William J Howell $68,750 (or $78,674)
    But then a deeper, and confusing search finds a sub-PAC that was “Set up by Speaker-elect Howell” the Dominion Leadership Trust PAC for $9,924.
    So one might use $68,750 as the total or one might add $9924 for a total of $78,674

    2) Kaine (all his races) (D) $71,500
    3) Jerry Kilgore for Governor $61,000
    4) Commonwealth Victory Fund $109,722

    And let us not forget about NAR’s PAC, which 30% of VPAC funds go to were given out like this:

    Bart Gordon (D-TN) $82,500
    Jerry Lewis (R-CA) $82,250
    E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-FL) $80,900
    Jim Moran (D-VA) $74,650 (VIRGINIA)
    Source: http://tinyurl.com/2mrows

    And these funds do not include the monies that were given broadly to both the Democratic Committees AND the Republican Committees that I would think would ultimately help the candidates above.

    So, again, while many/most candidates received $1,000, my comment about giving one candidate $100,000 was pretty close (yes not all at once, but still to one person).

    My other question is whether we are using the funds to help a congressperson WIN or is it used to influence their vote with a legal bribe. I am still uncertain about this.

    Look at Jim Moran above (total over many years). He won the last election by a landslide (2 to 1). I can understand giving money to close call races, but to give money to a shoe in, makes me question whether we are holding to the mission of helping candidates that support our position win, or if we are giving money to the winners, so that the door is opened for our lobbying arm to come in.

    I would love it if somebody would research incumbents that lost, and see if the new person got money going forward, I would be fascinated to see that research. That would help show if we support winners or ideas.

    And then I found that sometimes opposing candidates were given money to compete against each other. Do we give money to both sides, just in case, so that the door remains opens? So that VAR can do their lobbying (because RPAC doesn’t lobby, but VAR which supports RPAC does, is VERY confusing still) .

    Here is one example of two that competed, yet we gave to both sides.
    Devolites Davis, Jeannemarie (R-S034) $5,000 (lost)
    Petersen, J Chapman (D-S034) $750 (won)

    And this was confusing too:
    House Republican Campaign Committee (R-PAC) $4,000
    Democratic Party of Virginia (D-PAC) $990

    I thought we gave money to candidates? Again, I’m sure there is a reason, but to give to a Committee for them to give to whomever they please, is confusing. And then to give to both sides? That is confusing.

    Source: http://tinyurl.com/yrja77

    Sorry for the winded reply.

    Again, thank you to everyone for posting your comments. This post has brought up more questions, and maybe proof that a stand alone blog could be filled with just RPAC stuff, even if it was in the form of answering member questions and starting discussions.

    One last question. If our 30% goes to NAR, do they give money to Presidential candidates?
    If so, are they for Clinton, Obama or McCain? NAR gave $5,000 to Obama in 2004, and $2,000 to Clinton in 2004. I couldn’t find any past presidential contributions.

    http://tinyurl.com/2thhhl

    Thank you,

    Frank Broker FranklyRealty.com

  31. Jay says:

    Yes, Scott, I think it would be great for you to identify yourself as CEO of VAR when you write here. I did not know who you were….And I’m sure that even though I hate to admit it, that knowledge would have influenced my word selection :)

    And I think Frank is the posterchild of realtors getting involved in the process and looking for info and answers.

    It’s his post though and if he thinks it would be best to remove it so be it. I don’t think it would cause NVAR to not start a blog of updates with its members. And if the “frank” discussion of issues facing us causes NVAR to not want to open up the lines of communication that would be suspect indeed. Do they want their members selling Arlington Virginia real estate or other areas involved or not?

    J

  32. Scott Brunner says:

    Frank — You give me an over-the-weekend ulcer, then ask us to pull the post? No way. ;-)

    A few things:

    1) The contributions you list above are cumulative…over time. Pretend I’ve been working for VAR as CEO for 25 years, and someone says, “VAR paid that Brunner guy a million dollars.” That’s patently false on an annual basis, but in the long run (long, long, LONG run), it’s possible that VAR would pay me that much. The numbers you reference are cumulative over multiple election cycles. I DO get your point though.

    2) We DON’T give on both sides of a race. We DO, however, occasionally have to make nice to the winner AFTER our endorsed candidate loses….which explains the contribs your referenced to both Kilgore and Kaine in the last Governor’s race, and to Peterson and Devolites-Davis in that northern VA General Assembly race.

    3) We DO give (occasionally) to the Democratic and Republican parties, but there’s a good reason for it: Those contributions are what we pay to attend and sponsor a reception at each of the two state party caucuses each year. Those caucuses give our lobbyists and leaders access to elected officials in an informal setting. We don’t lobby at those caucus events. Rather, just like you do when you network in your community, we work to build relationships and credibility with elected officials so that when we come to the during the session with an issue or concern, they know us, and they’re at least willing to listen to our perspective.

    4) NAR DOES NOT contribute or endorse in presidential campaigns. The Obama and Clinton contribs you reference are because they’re senators who are voting on our issues in Congress. And, interestingly, both have been supportive, generally, of REALTORS in their senate careers. NAR also gives to the two parties, and NAR leaders attend the two party conventions every four years. That’s a fairly recent development. Why? Because more and more, as Executive Branch agencies attempt to usurp state regulatory authority on everything from banking to mortgage lender licensing, we need access to those policy makers. A presence at the party conventions is yet another relationship building tool for that purpose.

    5) I’ll see if we can do the research you mention on wins/losses and whether we turned around and funded the winner (whom we’d not supported) after the fact.

    6) Lastly, I don’t include my title when I comment here, Frank, because…well, it just feels pretentious. I see this blog as a discussion or debate among equals. My opinion is no better than yours, so why risk seeming to throw my weight around by including it in posts. There may be issues on which I’m better informed than the average commenter, but likewise, there’re plenty of subjects on here that you guys discuss about which I know absolutely nothing. I just noticed over the weekend that Ben has added”CEO of VAR” by my name as a contributor. There are times, I guess, when that can be useful, can add authority to something VAR is trying to communicate. But in blog comments, I prefer just to be one among many.

    Cheers…

  33. Thanks for the further clarification Scott.

    Just like with voting for any candidate, you aren’t going to agree with 100% of what they stand for, but that doesn’t mean you should not support them.

    I tried to go back in and update the post with a clarification on the $100,000, but I couldn’t figure it out. And I could only find one candidate that was given $50,000 in one year. That was probably a special circumstance.

    So how do we make sure that people read all the comments? The discussion seems more important than the post itself.

    Frank

  34. Jay says:

    This blog post+comments+Scott’s blog post could be mailed in a packet to all members of VAR to encourage them to check out VARBuzz. Just an idea….

    J (fellow equal to the CEO of VAR)

  35. Shawn Harris says:

    WOW! I LOVE this! Scott, you may think it’s pretenious to identify yourself, but I think it’s important for other members of this blog to know who you ARE (especially when you come out swinging on your first post). Secondly, because of your position, you are in the perfect place to help set the record straight and calmly ANSWER the questions Frank and other members of the community posed. We have the right to question, unless those rights were stripped from us while I was sleeping.

    You are just going to have to get used to blogs, Scott. This is this generation’s way to communicate. Only dinosaurs are going to refuse to see and understand this. If anything, VAR, NVAR and NAR should encourage agents to sharpen their blogging skills so they shine in the real estate business of today and tomorrow. I am so happy to see VAR HAS a blog. Kudos to you!!!

    My perception is, VAR, NVAR and NAR are not used to being so publically questioned. However, just because you didn’t “hear” about it in the past, didn’t mean Realtors were going along with the flow. Many Realtors just choose to not contribute or become involved as a form of silent protest that is often taken for apathy.

    As a broker and owner of my own company, I know Frank raised questions that many of us have. Maybe agents are not going to be so willing to just let the RPAC make the decisions for them anymore. This is OUR money we are contributing and it should be easy to find out where it is going instead of buried under lots of other fodder. I happen to know you will get much more support when you are translucent about who you are supporting and why. Why not create a link to this RPAC information on your main page so agents can just click and see where the money IS going and why? Why should we have “to research” it? I was under the impression that the majority of the money was going to candidates I didn’t approve of and by reading this blog, I found out it wasn’t true.

    You should be thrilled there is so much response to this blog. It lets you know what agents are thinking and WANT to be involved. It helps you see where you are going wrong so you can correct that path. I don’t think Frank has a “GRUDGE”. I do think Frank speaks for more of us than you’ll ever know. You really should pay attention to that. If we want to stop “politics as normal” then we have to let our voices be heard…even if we may not have all our facts straight at the beginning.

    Frank, for you, is just like the little kid who opens his mouth when you don’t want him to and spills the family dirty laundry. Thank you, Frank for having the courage to raise these questions and get it all out in the open.

  36. Well, now that we’re all in love with one another again… I go back to my earlier stance. We could fix so much with open lines of communications.

    No way, do I think that this blog should be pulled. This is exactly what should develop from available means of communicating. The ability to get a Q and A of this level is invaluable.

    I intend to use this as an example of how we should be communicating with one another from members to associations…

    I do want to say that as an active “Gen X’r” I don’t know that I agree that this is “THE” means of communicating for your generation. It certainly is the “now” thing to do. Time will only tell what’s on the horizon, but I think it’s important to remember that social media users (even Gen X/Y and millen) are still a small portion of the RE industry. I think it will continue to grow, but eventually something new will come about.

    It’s important to use the here and now tools available to us, but not forsake the tools of yesterday. I agree that this (maybe condensed) post and certain comments should be distributed by e-mail, magazine and what-not. That way many folks can see the issues here and maybe be encouraged to come to the blog for a real-time view of the going ons.

  37. Scott Rogers says:

    Scott Rogers here (as opposed to Scott Brunner, CEO) . . .

    Shawn, in reference to Scott Brunner (VAR’s CEO) you stated “especially when you come out swinging on your first post”. For the record, that was Scott Brunner’s 12th post here at VARbuzz, and he has been engaged in these sorts of online conversations even before that time.

    You also stated “You are just going to have to get used to blogs, Scott.” I agree that Realtor associations and their staff need to get used to blogs, but if you get to know Scott Brunner, you’ll find he is well ahead of the pack.

  38. Shawn Harris says:

    Hi, Matt:

    Yes, blogging is a “now” way to communicate. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that it is the ONLY way to communicate either. However, blogging has become a means to get instant comments, news, whatever about a situation out.

    If you observe the Gen Xers for any length of time, you can’t help but notice how they constantly text and blog on the go.Actually talking on the phone is only done when necessary. I am the mother of three of these beings in this age group. We “Twitter” frequently.

    Blogging, texting, email and websites have so changed the way we get and process news and information that we have created entire industries around them. Two years ago very few people even knew what a blog was.

    I brought Frank into my office to personally educate my agents on how to blog. I feel it is that important to our success in the real estate industry. Those that don’t know how to do will generally be left behind.

    Again, I agree this was a wonderful post to get everything going. I thought it was just great to see the range of emotions, the information sharing and the discussion that went on so rapidly around the RPAC topic. Think how hard it would be to get this set up in real life. Also,I can only imagine we wouldn’t get this much candor out in the open if we were all face to face.

    So..what do we talk about next?

  39. Shawn Harris says:

    Scott R….maybe I need to clarify..especially when Scott Brunner comes out swinging in his first post on the RPAC subject (I thought that was understood). Thank you for defending Scott Brunner. I don’t personally know him, but as the CEO and if he is indeed “ahead of the pack”, then perhaps because of his experience, he should know to take a breath before he does come out swinging. Frankly, I was more than shocked at his initial response and lack of identifying himself. Didn’t he think someone would eventually figure it out? How can identifying yourself as VAR’s CEO be pretentious? I consider it a fact.

    I just re-read Scott Brunner’s initial post on this subject and the tone and words of it make my virtual ears ring. Yes, there was a good outcome, but in all honesty, when you read that post and then LATER find out he is VAR’s CEO? Wow! Quite frankly, he is responding almost like an internet newbie. He personally attacked Frank Llosa on many points publicly. What is frightening to me, is that it appears when anyone speaks out about NVAR (VAR? NAR?) they are considered to be bearing a “grudge”. One of my own agents was pulled aside publicly at NVAR in Fairfax and assailed by the one of the NVAR top staff members for joining Frank Llosa’a Unofficial NVAR Group on Facebook. My agent was told he should “take off his NVAR pin and get out of that group on Facebook because Frank Llosa was a troublemaker!!!!” I had to make a direct call (no blog) to that top staff member to get her attention that her behavior was inappropriate to say the least. Wasn’t disparaging Frank Llosa in that manner a violation of our Code of Ethics?

    So please forgive me for my response when I see what appears to be more of the same from the VAR CEO.

    I stand behind my statements that Scott Brunner, VAR CEO should take this as an opportunity to understand that the RPAC blog (and others like it) is a way to really “listen” to what members are thinking and a golden opportunity to set the record straight in an informative way(Which he did later). What better way to find out how services can be improved for the members who pay for these services? This attitude rather than a knee jerk response will serve all of us better. It’s obvious we all learned much from these exchanges.

  40. Scott Rogers says:

    Shawn . . .

    First and foremost, I completely agree that we have all learned a lot from these exchanges, and that is most important.

    And, I agree that Scott Brunner’s initial response was a bit hasty in his initial response to Frank’s post. In Scott B’s words, “My fingers can get ahead of my reason when I feel strongly about something.”

    However, I have to disagree with your statement suggesting the possibility that “…when anyone speaks out about NVAR (VAR? NAR?) they are considered to be bearing a “grudge”.”

    I don’t know Frank that well, and I don’t know what issues he had with NVAR, but I don’t think Scott Brunner was making a knee jerk reaction on an issue between Frank and NVAR. As Frank stated in a later comment on this post, “Yes I have issues with NVAR, and even though I thought they were all wrapped up, and I agree that this isn’t the place to unwrap them, apparently I didn’t succeed in your eyes in hiding it enough.”

    Lastly, I’ve enjoyed your perspective and comments on this topic!

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  42. Diane Cipa says:

    Way to go, Frank.

  43. What an amazing thread. Kudos to Ben for enabling this kind of communication. Scott B., where else would you have had the chance to get an over-the-weekend ulcer like this one?! In all seriousness, THIS is what we’ve been needing. An open & honest forum in which those of us who want to learn more about the process, and therefore get more involved in the process, can do so.

    Yes Frank pushes the envelope, and often people aren’t ready to hear what he has to say. But Frank is the kind of guy you want to keep around even if just to keep you humble, because he will see things the rest of us will miss. Over the past 10+ years of knowing Frank, his ability to pinpoint issues & present “frank” assessments of topics the rest of us haven’t even formulated is truly appreciated. – DROdio

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