At the 59 ½ Minutes program at the 2010 Real Estate Summit, I gave an update on the work NAR is doing in response to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. I wanted share my update here on the blog as well.
On January 21st, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. An interest group called Citizens United was prohibited by the FEC from using corporate contributions to finance the distribution of a film about then United States Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. The movie was critical of Senator Clinton’s capability and qualifications to serve as president. Citizen’s United planned to distribute the film to coincide with several presidential primaries.
Prior to the ruling, corporations were prohibited from using corporate treasury funds to publicly express support or opposition for federal candidates. Corporations could only make such communications through their Political Action Committees (PACs). If corporations, labor unions and other interest groups, including NAR, wanted to support candidates directly, they were required to form PACs. PACs can be funded only by contributions from individuals.
The Supreme Court took the extraordinary action of overruling two of its prior cases. It held that corporations and labor unions have a First Amendment right to use their treasury funds to distribute to the general public communications supporting or opposing candidates for federal office.
This decision has obvious implications for NAR and RPAC. As you may know, RPAC seeks to advance the REALTOR® legislative agenda by supporting candidates for Congress that understand and support NAR’s legislative objectives. Now, under the Citizens United case, NAR could decide to use its own treasury funds – dues or other financial resources – to finance those communications.
President Vicki has appointed a Presidential Advisory Group, chaired by Cathy Whatley, to consider the implications of this case for NAR and RPAC, and how NAR can best implement this new opportunity to advance our legislative agenda. The PAG has met once and will meet again to formulate recommendations. One aspect of the PAG’s deliberations will include evaluating a member survey about how NAR might make use of such political communications. I urge you to complete the survey if you receive it.
As a REALTOR® Party member, I wanted you to be updated on this important development in campaign financing law. Look for further updates on Realtor.org/GovernmentAffairs. – Vince Malta, 2010 NAR Vice President and Liaison to Government Affair