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Some Realtors criticize use of dues increase for industry lobbying

The National Association of Realtors will have $41 million to spend on the 2012 elections. Some Tampa Bay area Realtors aren't happy about that.

For years, members voluntarily donated to the group's political fund when paying annual dues of $115. That changed in May when the group hiked dues by $40 for 2012 and 2013, with the extra to be devoted to lobbying.

"We have no input at all how this is spent," said Donna Rogers of Elite Realty in Land O'Lakes. "How will this help homeowners?"

Other Realtors declined to talk on the record but echoed the same concern. In the bay area, mandatory dues for national, state and local Realtor groups total about $401.

Seventy-three percent of the $41 million collected for the Realtor Party Initiative will be spent on grass roots actions, the NAR says. Florida Realtors represent more than 100,000 members and will get about $4 million.

In the 2010 election cycle, the Realtors Political Action Committee donated more than $12 million to pro-Realtor candidates for the U.S. Congress. Contributions to that fund are voluntary.

The NAR needed the increase to protect its interests at the local, state and national levels, president Ron Phipps said. He understands the difficulty in asking members to pay extra money in an economic downturn. But the trade association strives to be the influential voice on real estate matters, he added.

"There are monumental housing issues on the horizon that will affect Realtors in their daily businesses," Phipps said.

Rogers fears money could be spent on candidates or issues that Realtors don't support. The NAR says that could happen. But Phipps said local decisions will be based on feedback from local members. He encouraged Realtors to get involved in local and state associations to determine where the money goes.

State Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, is a longtime Realtor in southwest Florida. He said he supports the increase since the housing industry is crucial to the economy.

"I'm a Realtor first," he said. "I have no problem with this. It's only logical for this industry."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Some Realtors criticize use of dues increase for industry lobbying 11/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 8:32pm]
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