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Political Priority: Involvement at all levels

January 1, 2007

I’ll never forget the slogan I saw on a poster in an Ohio state representative’s office when I was visiting for a state legislative conference years ago: “No person’s life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness is safe as long as the legislature is in session.”

The impression it gave me was that this was finally an elected official who got it. It’s true that our members’ ability to do business and home owners’ rights to use and sell real property are in jeopardy. These rights have been severely affected by legislative initiatives and new threats in the form of tax hikes, “for sale” sign restrictions, and no-growth initiatives every day across the country.

That’s why no AE can stand on the sideline. No matter what your personal politics are, if you are in any way associated with the real estate profession, politics must be your business.

A core value of the Realtor® organization at all levels is political involvement. Collectively, we have significant influence in the legislative process and have made remarkable achievements that we would be unable to accomplish individually. And as we tell all new members joining our association, no other group is fighting for private property owners’ rights like the Realtors® association.

Now is the time AEs at all levels should renew their focus on political issues. Critical to these efforts is building an effective communications and response plan with members that will get them to rally behind political issues. During the NAR meetings in Washington, D.C., in May, the response rate reported from our members to legislative “Calls to Action” was, in my opinion, poor. We need to continually communicate to our members the importance of their involvement in the process. Remember also that dissemination is not communication. Create a plan to mobilize members to action when needed.

Political involvement also presents special challenges for AEs and staff. More than any other activity associations are involved in, politics can be divisive and you can find yourself with members on opposite sides regarding either candidates or issues. Administering the RPAC support process and discussing issues or candidates should be a structured process that ensures all sides have an opportunity to voice their opinions and be heard. Debate can become impassioned. Decisions can pit state association against local association and member against member. This can damage the association’s ability to raise funds. At these times, the AE and staff must keep personal feelings from the debate and be sure that the potential results of the association’s actions are fully, and most important, impartially, discussed. Once an association reaches a decision to support a candidate, AEs, regardless of our personal views and opinions, must support that decision.

This issue contains information to assist AEs at all levels in building or fine-tuning their government relations programs. Realtor® political involvement is more than a core association program; it has a direct impact on consumers and provides a critical link between us and the people Realtors® work for daily. At a time when we are hearing that “the consumer is king,” our political efforts present a key link with the consumer.