Earlier this month, when President Obama again proposed limiting wealthy taxpayers’ deductions for mortgage interest, the idea again drew immediate opposition from the real estate industry.
National Association of Realtors President Maurice Veissi warned that the change could slow an already sluggish recovery.
“NAR firmly believes that the mortgage interest deduction is vital to the stability of the American housing market and economy,” Veissi said in a prepared statement.
The president and the real estate lobby view the plan differently, in terms of the target audience. The Obama administration says the new limit would affect those with taxable income of $250,000 or more.
Veissi says it would “destroy middle-class wealth accumulation and trillions of dollars in home values nationwide.”
The Urban Institute has described the deductions as “the largest single federal subsidy for owner-occupied housing,” with benefits skewing to the wealthy.
Yet the real estate sector is a mighty force in Washington.
Last year, the National Association of Realtors ranked third among Washington lobbyists, trailing only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and General Electric.
It spent more than $22.3 million and employed three outside firms: Quinn Gillespie, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Holland & Knight. Lobby expenditures increased in 2011 by 26 percent over the prior year, for the highest total reported over the past decade.
The industry as a whole spent nearly $66 million on lobbying last year, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The center’s tally includes not only the Realtors association, but lesser amounts spent by organizations such as Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, the Real Estate Roundtable and the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The industry’s concerns, of course, go beyond the mortgage deduction. Last year, the National Association of Realtors contacted members of Congress on issues such as commercial and residential real estate lending, Federal Housing Administration programs, flood insurance and mortgage loan limits.
Its staff testified to congressional committees 27 times. It contacted agencies such as FHA, Treasury, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board.
At its annual policy conference last month, the organization released a list of concerns for 2012. Among its recommendations: restructuring of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, and government programs to expand the availability of commercial real estate loans.
The association is also a major player in political campaigns. In the 2010 election cycle, it spent nearly $11.5 million. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that its giving was fairly evenly distributed, with 55 percent going to Democrats and 44 percent to Republicans.
Spending peaked in 2008, at nearly $11.9 million.
The Realtors PAC is careful to cover all bases. In 2008, for example, it made $30,000 contributions to each of the parties’ national, Senate and congressional committees.
When the nonprofit research group MapLight analyzed campaign contributions from companies and organizations to sitting members of Congress, it found that the Realtors PAC was among the top five donors in five states. It ranked first among contributors to California members.
Legislation lobbied by the National Association of Realtors in the fourth quarter of 2011:
112 H.J.RES.37: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices.
112 H.J.RES.94: Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes.
112 H.J.RES.95: Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes.
112 H.R.1094: Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act
112 H.R.1114: StartUp Visa Act of 2011
112 H.R.1121: Responsible Consumer Financial Protection Regulations Act of 2011
112 H.R.1131: Preventing Homeowners from Foreclosure Act of 2011
112 H.R.1147: Community Recovery and Enhancement Act of 2011
112 H.R.1151: Emergency Mortgage Relief and Neighborhood Stabilization Programs Cost Recoupment Act of 2011
112 H.R.1182: GSE Bailout Elimination and Taxpayer Protection Act
112 H.R.1206: Access to Professional Health Insurance Advisors Act of 2011
112 H.R.1213: To repeal mandatory funding provided to States in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to establish American Health Benefit Exchanges.
112 H.R.1221: Equity in Government Compensation Act of 2011
112 H.R.1222: GSE Subsidy Elimination Act of 2011
112 H.R.1223: GSE Credit Risk Equitable Treatment Act of 2011
112 H.R.1224: GSE Portfolio Risk Reduction Act of 2011
112 H.R.1225: GSE Debt Issuance Approval Act of 2011
112 H.R.1226: GSE Mission Improvement Act of 2011
112 H.R.1227: GSE Risk and Activities Limitation Act of 2011
112 H.R.1249: Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
112 H.R.1309: Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011
112 H.R.131: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a 5-year extension for the real property standard deduction and to adjust such deduction for inflation.
112 H.R.1418: Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011
112 H.R.1439: Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2011
112 H.R.144: Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011
112 H.R.1498: Prompt Decision for Qualification of Short Sale Act of 2011
112 H.R.1528: Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2011
112 H.R.153: Ensuring Affordable Energy Act
112 H.R.158: EXPENSE Act of 2011
112 H.R.1723: Common Sense Economic Recovery Act of 2011
112 H.R.1734: Civilian Property Realignment Act
112 H.R.1754: Preserving Equal Access to Mortgage Finance Programs Act
112 H.R.1780: Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011
112 H.R.1841: Data Accountability and Trust Act (DATA) of 2011
112 H.R.1859: Housing Finance Reform Act of 2011
112 H.R.1977: FHA Reform Act of 2011
112 H.R.199: Protect America’s Energy and Manufacturing Jobs Act of 2011
112 H.R.2: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act
112 H.R.2017: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.2055: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.2056: To instruct the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to study the impact of insured depository institution failures, and for other purposes.
112 H.R.2078: Homeowners Flood Insurance Awareness Act
112 H.R.2126: Risk Retention Modernization Act of 2011
112 H.R.220: Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2011
112 H.R.2354: Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.2413: Secondary Market Facility for Residential Mortgages Act of 2011
112 H.R.2446: RESPA Home Warranty Clarification Act of 2011
112 H.R.25: Fair Tax Act of 2011
112 H.R.2508: To extend through fiscal year 2013 the increase in the maximum original principal obligation of a mortgage that may be purchased by the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and for other purposes.
112 H.R.2577: SAFE Data Act
112 H.R.2584: Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.282: To require Federal contractors to participate in the E-Verify Program for employment eligibility verification.
112 H.R.3010: Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011
112 H.R.31: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Accountability and Transparency for Taxpayers Act of 2011
112 H.R.3341: Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act
112 H.R.3461: Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act
112 H.R.3630: Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012
112 H.R.366: To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes.
112 H.R.397: Reform Americans Can Afford Act of 2011
112 H.R.4: Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011
112 H.R.402: National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2011
112 H.R.430: HAMP Repeal and Deficit Reduction Act of 2011
112 H.R.435: National Flood Insurance Program Termination Act of 2010
112 H.R.438: Energy Star Improvements Act of 2011
112 H.R.459: Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2011
112 H.R.463: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Transparency Act of 2011
112 H.R.476: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent the deduction of State and local general sales taxes.
112 H.R.527: Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011
112 H.R.607: Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011
112 H.R.611: BEST PRACTICES Act
112 H.R.627: Home Energy Loss Prevention Act
112 H.R.654: Do Not Track Me Online Act
112 H.R.700: To provide a moratorium on the issuance of flood insurance rate maps, to assist property owners in adapting to flood insurance rate map changes, and for other purposes.
112 H.R.750: Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act
112 H.R.764: Fair Treatment of Existing Levees Act of 2011
112 H.R.839: HAMP Termination Act of 2011
112 H.R.861: NSP Termination Act
112 H.R.87: To repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
112 H.R.880: Equity for Our Nation’s Self-Employed Act of 2011
112 H.R.940: United States Covered Bond Act of 2011
112 H.R.97: Free Industry Act
112 H.RES.25: Expressing the sense of the Congress that the current Federal income tax deduction for interest paid on debt secured by a first or second home should not be further restricted.
112 S.1000: Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011
112 S.1030: Freedom from Restrictive Excessive Executive Demands and Onerous Mandates Act of 2011
112 S.1056: Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011
112 S.1091: A bill to amend the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to include a system for indeterminate loss insurance claims, and for other purposes.
112 S.1151: Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2011
112 S.12: Job Creation Act of 2011
112 S.120: A bill to direct the General Accountability Office to conduct a full audit of hurricane protection funding and cost estimates associated with post-Katrina hurricane protection.
112 S.1207: Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2011
112 S.13: Fair Tax Act of 2011
112 S.135: Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2011
112 S.1408: Data Breach Notification Act of 2011
112 S.1508: Homeownership Affordability Act of 2011
112 S.1535: Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act of 2011
112 S.170: Helping Responsible Homeowners Act
112 S.1737: Sensible Accounting to Value Energy Act of 2011
112 S.1746: Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act
112 S.18: Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act
112 S.1813: MAP-21
112 S.1940: An original bill to amend the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, to restore the financial solvency of the flood insurance fund, and for other purposes.
112 S.1950: Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011
112 S.1958: A bill to extend the National Flood Insurance Program until May 31, 2012.
112 S.202: Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2011
112 S.21: Cyber Security and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2011
112 S.22: Homeowner Tax Fairness Act of 2011
112 S.222: Limiting Investor and Homeowner Loss in Foreclosure Act of 2010
112 S.228: Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act
112 S.23: America Invents Act
112 S.231: EPA Stationary Source Regulations Suspension Act
112 S.24: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permanently extend the election to deduct State and local sales taxes.
112 S.28: Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act
112 S.297: A bill to amend section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934 to provide that funds received as universal service contributions and the universal service support programs established pursuant to that section are not subject to certain provisions of title 31, United States Code, commonly known as the Antideficiency Act.
112 S.488: Reduce Excessive Interest Payments Act
112 S.509: Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011
112 S.565: StartUp Visa Act of 2011
112 S.637: Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act
112 S.642: Creating American Jobs Through Foreign Capital Investment Act
112 S.646: Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2011
112 S.693: GSE Bailout Elimination and Taxpayer Protection Act
112 S.72: Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011
112 S.74: Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011
112 S.77: Pollution and Costs Reduction Act
112 S.782: Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011
112 S.799: Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011
112 S.80: A bill to provide a permanent deduction for State and local general sales taxes.
112 S.913: Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011
112 S.J.RES.6: A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices.