The Housing Chronicles Blog: Builders ramp up political donations

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Builders ramp up political donations

You may recall a couple of months ago, when the NAHB pulled back on their political giving because they weren't too happy with help they were getting from Congress. Today, however, having walked the halls of Capitol Hill and emerged with some more help for the flailing building industry, builders as well as mortgage brokers and others in the housing food chain have re-opened their pocketbooks. From a Wall Street Journal article:

The housing industry already has given more money in political contributions this election cycle than in the entire previous cycle, while winning favorable provisions in an emergency housing bill moving through the legislature.

Through May, mortgage bankers and brokers, real-estate companies and home builders had given more than $95 million to federal candidates and political parties so far this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That compares to about $57 million at this point in the 2006 cycle...

The contributions, which are entirely legal, are a tool for "relationship building...a way to educate [lawmakers] as to how our industry works and its perspective," said Steve O'Connor, senior vice president for government affairs at the Mortgage Bankers Association, a lobbying group for home lenders. "I can't change the perception" that the subprime problems have sullied the sector's political giving, he said. "All I can do is control what we do."...

The contributions serve as carrot and stick, awarded to lawmakers who share the groups' positions and withheld from those who don't. When the National Association of Home Builders wasn't getting what it wanted in the housing bill, it shut off the campaign-cash spigot.

The group's chief executive, Jerry Howard, said it withdrew contributions until Congress included measures it wanted, including a credit for first-time home buyers. The group's members made 300 visits to lawmakers and 1,200 phone calls demanding action, and the group's board voted to resume contributions when the measure began to take a shape more to its liking.

The bill now includes an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, which was also high on the wish list of the National Association of Realtors.

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