Follow the money! That’s the basic rule for understanding what’s what and who’s who in the election business. It’s as true in a little town like Berkeley (my home town) as on the national stage. Here, four of the candidates on our City Council ballot are beneficiaries of so-called Independent Expenditures by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This body, which says on its website that it’s “widely considered one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the country,” has spent a total of $92,485.79 to influence the Berkeley election as of October 14, spread as follows:
- Laurie Capitelli for Mayor $60,381.64
- Darryl Moore, District 2 9,011.76
- Stephen Murphy, District 5 13,018.26
- Susan Wengraf, District 6 10,074.13
The National Association of Realtors is headquartered in the Realtor Building, 430 North Michigan Street, Chicago (see photo, above). What possible interest could the NAR have in the local election in a little burg like Berkeley? Well, Berkeley is not unique. NAR intervenes with its money in hundreds, if not thousands of municipal elections. It even sponsors a political party, the Realtor®Party. There’s a couple of specific issues and one broad basic principle that are dear to NAR’s heart.
The real estate transfer tax. It’s a key element of the Berkeley city budget. NAR hates real estate transfer taxes and would like to see them abolished, or reduced, or at least not increased. Increasing the real estate transfer tax would be a positive step toward increasing the supply of affordable housing, which Berkeley desperately needs
Highways v. public transit. With a string of new luxury housing developments going up in Berkeley, traffic congestion is going to get worse, not better. NAR believes in building more roads and highways for cars, “versus transit and other modes.” Affluent people don’t ride public transit. Get it?
NAR is opposed to any programs that “benefit the many by taxing the few.” Its own words. However, NAR has no objection to programs that benefit the few by taxing the many. NAR’s money, coming all the way from Chicago, is a boost for candidates who share that philosophy. They may talk progressive, but money talks also, and the money says otherwise.
These numbers come from the Berkeley city website.