Despite saying it had paused all federal political donations after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol a year ago, the National Association of Realtors was the second biggest donor among trade groups to the campaigns of lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, according to a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
After the insurrection, NAR and Rocket Mortgage pledged to pause all federal political donations and review their political spending while Zillow and Airbnb committed to withholding support from lawmakers who voted against certifying election results. At the time, NAR faced calls from some members for changes to its political action committee, which has historically donated to lawmakers who support real estate issues, regardless of their stances on other issues.
“NAR will continue to closely monitor events in Washington in the days and weeks ahead in order to ensure our political participation most closely represents the will of our Realtor members and the best interests of American real estate,” a NAR spokesperson said on Jan. 11, 2021.
Similarly, that same day Rocket Mortgage CEO Jay Farner said the company would suspend its political donations “as we contemplate the role corporations play in the political process.”
In a statement to @crainsdetroit, Rocket Mortgage CEO Jay Farner says the company “will be suspending all political giving as we contemplate the role corporations play in the political process.” pic.twitter.com/vBHJiE4Vso
— Nick Manes (@nickrmanes) January 11, 2021
That was then. According to CREW, a nonprofit nonpartisan watchdog, Zillow and Airbnb have kept their commitments, while NAR and Rocket Mortgage have resumed contributions to some lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
According to CREW’s report, “The Corporate Insurrection: How companies have broken promises and funded seditionists,” since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 700 corporations and industry groups have given more than $18 million to 143 of the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 general election and to two political groups that will support them in the midterms, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Those 147 lawmakers have been dubbed the “Sedition Caucus.”
“The staggering amount of corporate money flowing to members of Congress who acted to undermine our democracy since the attack on the Capitol highlights the difference between companies saying the right thing and companies doing the right thing,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder in a statement.
“Their continued financial support funds efforts to undercut the validity of the 2020 election and sow doubts in our electoral process. These companies and industries should stick to their original promises and stop giving now to those who subvert our system of government.”
According to the CREW report, NAR was the second biggest donor among trade groups to members of the Sedition Caucus, giving a total of $303,000. Only the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers gave more, a total of $342,000.
“Trade groups have also put January 6 in a memory hole, reversing course on commitments to uphold democracy, and returning to business as usual,” the report said.
“Soon after the insurrection, the National Association of Realtors announced that they would ‘continue to closely monitor events in Washington’ to ensure their donations aligned with the will of their members. Since then, the association contributed to the greatest number of individual Sedition Caucus members, giving $183,000 to 82 members as well as $120,000 to the NRSC and NRCC.
“Their top recipient, Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who collected $16,000 in donations to his campaign and leadership PAC, supported Ted Cruz’s effort to represent President Trump in front of the Supreme Court in an effort to reverse the electoral results in Pennsylvania. On Jan. 6, he tweeted about objecting to the certification of electoral votes from states he claimed ‘clearly violated the Constitution.’”
Asked for comment on the CREW report, a NAR spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “Federal Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC) candidate contribution decisions are locally-led and made based on recommendations from state associations and state trustees. RPAC is proud to be the largest nonpartisan political action committee operated on behalf of a trade association in the United States. About 51 percent of our involvement in 2020 federal races came on behalf of Democrats, while 49% was in support of Republicans. Our contributions are focused on policies that benefit homebuyers and sellers and the overall market.”
Asked how long its pause on all federal political donations lasted, what criteria NAR used when deciding to resume disbursements and to whom, and whether NAR made any changes to how it disbursed RPAC funds after some members asked for RPAC reform, NAR did not respond.
Regarding NAR’s claimed nearly equal contributions to both parties, that’s true only for contributions RPAC made directly to candidates’ campaigns. RPAC’s 2020 independent expenditures skewed 79/21 Republican to Democrat — in no small part because RPAC put $1.3 million into Realtor Leigh Brown’s losing primary race in 2019, according to campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets.org.
According to CREW, Rocket Mortgage has given a total of $75,000 — $45,000 to members of the Sedition Caucus and their leadership PACs and $30,000 to the NRSC and NRCC. This puts Rocket Mortgage among the top 10 corporate donors to the caucus tracked by CREW.
Rocket Mortgage did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
“Attempts to invalidate the results of an election pose an existential danger to this country’s democratic process,” Bookbinder said. “As we continue to grapple with the ongoing attacks on our constitutional system, the public deserves to know which corporations and industries will put political access ahead of our democracy. ”
The watchdog noted that more than half of the nearly 250 companies that said they would evaluate their political giving after the insurrection “have not made a donation to seditionists since.”
“As calls for insurrection accountability reach the one year mark, one thing is for certain: our democracy cannot recover from the insurrection while Corporate America continues to spend millions of dollars bankrolling seditionist members of Congress,” the CREW report said.
“Instead of filling the campaign coffers of members who voted not to certify the election and continue to spread the Big Lie, corporations and industry groups should demand that these members renounce their votes and stop undermining our democracy.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with details on RPAC spending from OpenSecrets.org.