Should RPAC support candidates who violate the code of ethics?

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When was the last time you took a close look at where RPAC dollars are going? Life and careers are busy, and it’s easy to assume that RPAC is doing a great job when you write that check at the fundraising BBQ this summer. When was the last time you took an in-depth look at where the money goes?

In 2022, RPAC contributed millions of dollars to support the campaigns of politicians running for office. This funding is supposed to help create action and support for the most important issues our industry and consumers face with fair housing issues. 

NAR even pushes the narrative that they provide equal support equal to both political parties. But then there is more to the story. What if we outright know that certain supported candidates violate Article 10? Shouldn’t that be an immediate disqualifier, no matter what party they represent?

RPAC is one of the most bipartisan PACs in the country, giving to both Democrats and Republicans alike. The candidate must be a member of the Realtor Party – members of Congress and candidates who support Realtor-friendly issues. Through direct contributions, our opportunity race program, and independent expenditures, we ensure that Realtor issues are heard on Capitol Hill.

RPAC

In today’s political climate, Realtors need to ask more questions about why candidates are selected for funding, as many of them have a personal and political agenda that does not reflect the values of NAR.

Wait … Who received funding?

What’s even more disheartening is that RPAC has contributed to the campaigns of several individuals like U.S. Representative Marco Rubio. 

Marco Rubio is not shy about pushing his agenda, leaving one to question how he filled out RPAC’s candidate screening form in the fair housing section and how RPAC weighed his responses. Isn’t supporting and creating laws that aim to discriminate against or restrict targeted populations a harmful act against them?

Rubio’s Human Rights Score Card is 0. That’s right; he is legitimately one of the worst representatives in regard to these issues.

Is there a flaw in the screening of these candidates? Do we not even ask them where they stand in support of LGBTQIA+ issues and how that factors into their receiving funding?

What is the Human Rights Scorecard?

Founded in 1980, The Human Rights Campaign strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. The Human Rights Campaign wants to inform the public about how elected officials have voted on equality issues.  This organization measures each year’s Congressional track record. This is very similar to what the ACLU does as well. It’s a great tool for researching candidates.

Human Rights Scorecard research sample for 2022 President Circle Candidates

Here’s the good, bad and ugly of how a small sample of candidates are representing their regions:

  1. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) = 0 
  2. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) = 98
  3. U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) = 8
  4. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) = 94
  5. U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) = 100 ( previous record)
  6. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth(D-IL) Endorsed
  7. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Legislation introduced
  8. U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08) = 100
  9. U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) = 8
  10. U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA-31) = 100
  11. U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-02) = 24
  12. U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE at-large) = 100
  13. U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04) = Endorsed
  14. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16) = 6
  15. U.S. Rep. Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX-34)= Endorsed

Thoughts from experts and advocates

These discussions deserve more attention and accountability from leadership. Reaching out to some of our fair housing experts, we gathered some thoughts on why candidates are not looked at more thoroughly. Broker, trainer and fair housing advocate Dr. Lee Davenport and Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, weigh in with their thoughts on candidate screenings and what can be done to improve them.

Dr. Lee Davenport

I love that NAR leadership recently said, “We’re fully committed to ending discrimination.” Then let’s “follow the money!” As we Realtors (aka NAR) collectively and continuously improve how we champion fair access and opportunity in housing for everyone (there is always room for improvement, friends), we would be remiss to not make sure every political action dollar is directed in service of that mission.

Here’s my wishlist for RPAC before earmarking funds for a particular candidate:

1. Provide a comprehensive list of key issues and proposed legislative bills concerning housing

2. Identify in a quick-glance chart where candidates stand with what (proposed) policies

3. Offer an open comments period:

This can be a town hall (virtual or in-person) — bonus points if candidates are present to answer questions.

Or, this can be a quantitative survey for all members (instead of qualitative for a lower burden on staff/volunteers when reviewing) — again bonus for allowing the candidates to respond.

4. Allow the membership to vote on which candidates receive funding:

For greater membership participation, perhaps this can be gamified by doing it all via brackets (our own version of “March Madness”)

A democratic process (whether gamified or not), would likely mean more contributions to RPAC. The 1.5 million-ish members of NAR are smart people and should have an opportunity to say what political actions and candidates we want to be supported with our hard-earned dollars.

Ryan Weyandt

Our Article 10 Rule should be common sense. As an industry, we can longer sit idly by and support candidates who are just pro-housing. That is simply not enough. Especially today, too many deemed by RPACs to be “pro-housing” are also the same ones creating and supporting legislation that is discriminatory against diverse groups.

You can’t be pro-housing and anti-people, anti-communities and/or have blatant disregard for the equality of all at the same time. After all, the same people being attacked are the same living in the housing you are supportive of. — Ryan Weyandt

They go hand-in-hand. We are asking RPAC leadership around the nation, and the Realtors who financially support their RPACs, to look at a candidate’s record far beyond the housing lens. If they are discriminatory, do not support them. If they are discriminatory, explain to them why they are not receiving Realtor funds. We have 1.5 million Realtors and are a huge lobbying power. We can impact change.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts are extremely visible in our industry. NAR’s own “About Us” page has a headline and call out that reads,

“NAR fully embraces perspectives from all walks of life — regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, national origin, socioeconomic status, political affiliation or any other qualities by which we may define ourselves.”

It is, therefore unfathomable that Florida Realtors, Texas Realtors and other associations, their RPACs and members, support those candidates who are unsupportive of this work.

On the same About Us page on NAR’s website, the organization’s Mission is stated: “To empower  Realtors  as they preserve, protect and advance the right to real property for all.” Yet in places like Texas, where so many of those passing anti-LGBTQ+ bills are funded by Texas Realtors and its TREPAC, we have countless examples of LGBTQ+ people and families with LGBTQ+ children essentially being forced from their homes. Clearly, we are not working to preserve, protect and advance the right to real property for all.

We can’t help but look back at the 1960s when NAR was unsupportive of the 1968 Civil Rights Act. It was the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) that pushed it forward along with other historic civil rights figures. Just like back then, there is far too much hate in our nation against diverse communities. It is being fueled by a vocal minority. It is time for the Realtor community to make an even louder statement and stand on the right side of history.

Taking action 

We can do better. We owe our LGBTQIA+ population better as a society and as an industry whose core values include providing equitable experiences for all. 

  1. If you see a colleague blatantly violating the code of ethics, report it.
  2. If you are a broker, make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion education a core part of the values of your brokerage.
  3. Provide clear and specific policies for agents working for you about following the code of ethics.
  4. Screen agents and employees’ social media accounts for potential conflicts of interest with Article 10.
  5. Hold a course at your brokerage about being a better ally for diversity.
  6. Recognize preferred pronouns and create inclusive language in communications.
  7. Write to NAR about improving the screening process for political candidates who receive funding if their platforms directly conflict with Article 10.
  8. Educate yourself on current issues of the LGBTQIA+ population and provide verified resources to your team.

Wrapping up

So what is the ultimate goal of this article? First, we need to build awareness and accountability. With the amount of fundraising built to support RPAC at an individual and association level, there needs to be more involvement and education around candidate screening.  I would like to see Realtors advocate for a public threshold measurement of the code of ethics as a hard standard.

In these tight financial times, we have to be exceptionally cognisant of where every dollar goes, whom it goes to, and, a step further, what they will do with that investment.

This is not the time to say “I’m too busy” or “The problem is too big” or “It doesn’t affect me personally.” It is just as important to know what RPAC is doing right as it is to know what it is doing wrong. Being bipartisan isn’t enough if half of the team doesn’t support ethical standards.

Note: We attempted to contact NAR for their input on this matter, but they did not provide a comment by the time of publication.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram 

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