You might be surprised to find that your friendly local realtor is the member of a powerful force in Texas politics. Established in 1920, Texas Association of REALTORS and its affiliated PACs (TREPAC and Texas Association of REALTORS Issues Mobilization PAC) are active, influential, and especially well-funded. During the last election cycle alone, these two PACs took in more than $16 million dollars and spent more than $44 million. More money flowed through the realtors’ PACs than through any other political entity in Texas.
The largest professional membership association in the state, Texas Association of REALTORS also has 77 active local affiliates and a close working relationship with their national affiliate, the National Association of REALTORS. Together, they strategize, fundraise, and often execute desired goals successfully.
A legislative priority for them this session is Senate Bill 2, Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017, carried by State Senator Paul Bettencourt. Among other things, SB2 limits the amount of property taxes local governments can collect without voter approval.
1. Effective Support for Texas 2015 Prop 1
Texas Association of REALTORS Issues Mobilization PAC ran a full-force advocacy campaign in support of Prop 1 on the November 2015 ballot. They worked closely with both National Association of REALTORS and local affiliates around the state to support a Texas homestead exemption for school district property taxes and to ensure that real estate transactions would not be subject to a tax.
The PAC spent millions on focus groups, economic impact studies, polling, mailers, television commercials, websites, newspaper advertising, social media advertising, paid robocalls, a phone bank, event sponsorships, email blasts, yard signs, stickers, speaking engagements, and even a teletownhall with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
In the end, their efforts were very successful – Prop 1 passed with over 86% support.
2. All Politics are Local
TREPAC pays significant attention to legislative races but also weighs in heavily to local, city, and county races. Mayors, City Council, County Commissioners, even Police Chiefs, Constables, and Tax Assessor-Collectors are supported by TREPAC directly and indirectly through contributions to their local affiliates.
In Galveston for example, TREPAC supported a candidate for mayor, four City Council members, a county commissioner, a sheriff, a constable, and a tax assessor-collector. Also, The Texas Association of REALTORS hosted their 2016 Annual conference in Galveston.
Why so much attention on Galveston? Perhaps because Galveston is a critical area for a national discussion of flood insurance reform – as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) again faces Congressional review in 2017. Realtors have significant interest in the legislation because past reforms have impacted home sales in flood-prone areas. Local realtor-friendly elected officials will help stack the deck in the realtors’ favor and increase the attention paid to flood-prone areas.
3. Newsworthy Donations
It’s not unusual for political entities to support news organizations, as many believe an independent, vibrant news industry helps our political process. TREPAC clearly has taken an interest in supporting state and local news organizations. They’ve given to the Killeen Daily Herald ($2,334), Uvalde Leader-News ($2,055), Brownwood Newspapers Inc. ($415) and other local news outlets. Realtors often pay local papers for advertising space or to promote certain events, thus these types of donations don’t seems all too out of the ordinary. But there is one news entity TREPAC supports that’s distinctly different: the Texas Tribune.
The Texas Tribune is a news organization based in Austin that focuses almost exclusively on Texas politics. This arena, largely ignored by local and regional news outlets due to a lack of funds stemming from reduced readership, is where the Texas Tribune makes its mark. While their readership outside of Austin is rather limited, their influence and pull in the Capitol is anything but. TREPAC’s support of the Texas Tribune ($14,000) shows they care about what insiders at the Capitol think, and want to be on good terms with the Austin-based news organization most often spinning the story.
Most Interesting Entertaining Donations:
Realtors host and sponsor some of the most entertaining fundraising events of all trade associations – from Pie Throwing Event in South Padre, to a Halloween Chili Cookoff in San Angelo, to a Bake Sale in Brazoria, to a Christmas Wreath Contest in Rockport, and Turkeys for Thanksgiving in McAllen – realtors work hard, and definitely play hard.
Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact during the 140-day legislative session. Check back throughout session for updates.