Real Estate’s Influence on the Race

Whether it be New York, Chicago or San Diego, contributions by the real estate industry play a giant role in citywide elections all around the country. With many land use decisions being made at the local level, the industry has a lot to lose or gain.

But their electoral participation doesn’t stop there. The industry’s involvement in presidential elections is nothing short of influential, although it is not as distinguished at this level.

For this primary season, the real estate industry – comprised mostly of developers and agents – was the third highest contributor, donating a nearly $24 million to candidates from both parties, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. But as a percentage of total contributions raised by each candidates, the industry’s donations do not rise above five percent.

Perhaps more importantly, a recent study estimated that it was one of only five industries that account for the majority of bundlers, which are individuals that gather contributions for a candidate, and hand them in to that campaign bundled under their name. Published by the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan research group affiliated with George Washington University, and Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, the study found that individuals from real estate, law, and three finance industries made up 56 percent of all bundlers. The real estate industry had the fifth highest number of bundlers.

The report said that by the end of the year, at least 40 percent of Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaign contributions have been raised by bundlers. But since disclosure laws are lax and campaigns only release some information, that number could be much higher and was limited to these campaigns.

Some news reports, though, note that small donations raised through the internet are increasingly contributing more than what is raised by bundlers as the campaign progresses.

Real estate’s money is also prominent in lobbying data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Spending over $600 million, the real estate industry has the sixth highest expenses for lobbying of the federal government over the past ten years. It has, however, dropped to 13th place for 2007.

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