This article has been contributed by a good friend of the Mr Mortgage blog – Teri Buhl of the New York Post.
The National Association of Realtors has a friend in Republican Congressman Shays but is having a hard time fessing up to it. A heated debate played out in the media last week when I published a story in the New York Post on Shays’ support of a bill that would bring back no-money-down loans on government-backed mortgages. The Shays co-sponsored bill, H.R. 6694, would overturn a ban the July Housing Bill placed on Federal Housing Administration seller-financed down payments on mortgages (“SFDPAs”), effective October 1st, 2008.
After the controversy was debated on democrat blogs, three Connecticut newspapers — who have all publicly endorsed Shays — published stories that attempted to dampen the view that Shays was influenced to support SFDPA by the NAR in return for much needed expensive T.V. ads and local mailings. Amidst over $3 million spent on the congressman’s fight to keep his Republican seat, nearly one-third of that support has came from the NAR-PAC. While the NAR quickly scrambled to distance themselves from the controversial House bill and their support for Shays, it appears some of their already on-the-record statements simply don’t hold up.
Last week the Greenwich Times wrote in “NAR gives $800,000 to Shays:”
A spokeswoman for NAR, which has 1.2 million Realtor members nationally and about 16,300 members in Connecticut, said the association decided to back Shays well before he signed onto the bill.
“It did not come into play in our decision,” said Mary Trupo of NAR.
After reading these comments I called Trupo to clarify the issue, reminding her that the same week the Congressman helped get H.R. 6694 marked up and out of committee, the NAR began their first T.V. ad supporting Shays.
Trupo responded that media buys take time to plan and they had agreed to support Shays well before that.
When pressed about the timing of the NAR-PAC decision to back Christopher Shays with their members’ money Trupo firmly responded, “We finalized our decision for Shays in August.”
Interesting, considering Shays’ actions show he jumped into the seller-funded down payment assistance party well before that.
Shays told the NY Post during our interview, “I agreed to co-sponsor H.R. 6694 right after the Housing Bill passed and Al Green thought we had made a mistake in banning SFDPA.” On July 31st, 2008, HR. 6694 was introduced in the House by Congressman Green, Miller, Shays and Congresswoman Waters.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, NAR has spent $947,910 on Republican campaigns. Shays has taken the lion’s share of that budget and he has received the second-highest amount of support from the Association.
In response, The Connecticut Post published a piece called “Shays defends support for housing bill” — which was criticized by readers in its comment section for reading like a Shays press release. In the article, they interviewed Trupo as well:
Mary Trupo, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Realtors, said that the group is following Green’s bill [H.R. 6694] but has not been directly lobbying in favor of it.
Yet sources inside of the House Financial Services Committee told me during my investigation that the realtors and the home builders were very concerned about what they perceived would be a slow-down in home sales if SFDPA was permanently banned.
In fact, this NAR letter was sent to all members of the House Committee the day it was marked up and readied for a vote. Richard Gaylord, president of the NAR writes on September 15th, “Thank you again for moving this important issue forward. We stand ready to work with you to make these reforms law.
Last Friday when (D) Congresswoman Maxine Waters — another co-sponsor of H.R. 6694 — came to Shays’ district to campaign for his opponent (D) Jim Himes, a reporter from the Hartford Courant lambasted her with a surprise question about who lobbied her for support of the bill.
The Hartford courant writes in “Maxine Waters gives Jim Himes A Boost, Chris Shays An Alibi”:
On Friday, Waters concurred, saying the measure was not lobbied by the National Association of Realtors.
“It was pushed basically by community groups and organizations who wanted to have people have an opportunity to get housing, who maybe couldn’t afford the down payment, but maybe could afford to pay a mortgage every month,” Waters said.
But something apparently was lost in translation in this seemingly cut-and-dry statement. According to sources attending Waters’ CT rally who are familiar with the Financial Services committee members’ thinking, Waters never said the Realtors were NOT involved in lobbying.
A Democratic congressional source told me, “The Hartford reporter took liberty with her statement in his story. There are multiple organizations including the Realtors, such as the National Association of Black Mortgage Brokers, who are lobbying for these seller-funded loans, and have sent emails to their members asking them to call their congressman to vote for it.”
Whether Shays took the NAR’s money before or after he signed up for H.R. 6694 is now left to the to voters to decide. I would like to simply remind them that when Shays was pressed for why he supported overturning a practice that his fellow Republican Senator Shelby had worked so hard to get banned he told me, “Am I totally passionate about SFDAP – NO. I’d give it about a 6 on my radar screen of critical issues I support.”
Sounds like CT voters didn’t give him the nickname “Shays Both Ways” without good reason.