Real estate trade groups reconsider donations after Capitol unrest

10 real estate PACs donated at least $100K to “sedition caucus”; several have now halted contributions

House republicans Kevin McCarthy, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Steve Scalise have all received more than $100,000 from real estate PAC donations. (Getty)

Last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol Building has led many banks and corporations to rethink their approach to political donations. Now, some real estate groups are following suit.

Using data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, an analysis by The Real Deal found that 10 major real estate-related trade groups had contributed in the 2020 election cycle to members of the so-called “sedition caucus” — the 147 Republican lawmakers who objected to Electoral College results in the presidential election.

As previously reported, the National Association of Realtors was among the largest such donors, contributing $1.27 million. Counting only donations of $10,000 or more, NAR’s political action committee donated $834,000 to 56 Electoral College objectors. Nine other real estate groups donated at least $100,000 each, as the below table shows.

NAR did not announce any changes to its stance on political contributions, noting in a statement that “decisions regarding our involvement in the 2022 federal elections will be made by following the same procedures and considering a multitude of factors impacting our nation and its real estate sector.”

Other groups have signaled that they would reconsider their approach.

“As a result of these recent events… Nareit’s political action committee, REITPAC, will immediately suspend political contributions to all members of Congress who voted to deny certification of electoral votes cast by the Electoral College,” the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts said in a statement, which also condemned the “misguided and misdirected invasion” of the U.S. Capitol by a “violent mob of insurrectionists”

The National Multifamily Housing Council, meanwhile, said that it has paused all PAC disbursements, not only those connected with legislators who objected to the electoral votes. “We will undertake a thorough review of our strategy for the 117th Congress,” the group said in a statement.

The Mortgage Bankers Association has taken a similar approach. “MBA has decided to pause disbursements from its political action committee, MORPAC, and will undertake a careful review with our member leadership of our giving strategies for the 117th Congress,” it said.

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The National Apartment Association has not made sweeping changes to its political contribution policy, but did note that it was “shocked and intensely saddened” by last week’s events. “While sound housing policy remains our primary rationale for support, we will continue to evaluate each contribution on a case-by-case basis,” the group said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the National Association of Home Builders said that the organization’s PAC committee had not yet met to discuss this issue. The four other trade groups did not respond to requests for comment.

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With $16.3 million in total contributions, the real estate industry constituted the third largest category of donors to Electoral College objectors, after “retired” and “Republican/conservative,” according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

But trade groups’ donations to sedition caucus members should be understood in the context of their total donations to candidates across the political spectrum. Six of those groups donated evenly to both Democratic and Republican candidates, with neither party receiving more than 60 percent of their total donations to federal candidates.

More partisan-leaning groups include the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, whose contributions were almost 80 percent Democratic. The National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the American Resort Development Association, meanwhile, contributed mainly to Republican candidates.

Among the lawmakers who objected to the Electoral College results, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was the top recipient of real estate PAC donations, receiving funds from nine of the 10 trade groups. House Small Business Committee ranking member Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana also received more than $100,000 each from those groups.

McCarthy and Scalise are “members of Republican leadership who bring in big money from nearly every business PAC,” the Center for Responsive Politics notes in its own analysis of the data. McCarthy has condemned last week’s violence and said that President Donald Trump “bears responsibility” for it, but did not vote to impeach. Scalise has called the Capitol attack “domestic terrorism,” but also opposed a second impeachment.

Meanwhile, Missouri senator Josh Hawley — the first senator to object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — did not receive contributions above $10,000 from any of the above trade groups, although he did receive $1,000 from NAR. Texas senator Ted Cruz received just one $10,000 donation from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and $1,000 from NAR.