Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Follow the Money...

We always suspected as much... now there's proof. A story in this month's issue of Governing magazine says the Utah legislature has the greatest concentration of realtors among its members of any legislature in the nation. Some pretty frank comments from their chief lobbyist, Chris Kyler, are included as well.

Some quotes from the story:

"...(W)hat do Realtors dream about doing next? If they live in Utah, they may be dreaming of a career in politics. Chris Kyler, CEO of the Utah Association of Realtors, sounds quite animated as he counts off the many members of his organization who hold high office in the state. 'I've got people who are on county commissions, mayors, state senators,' Kyler says. 'Our lieutenant governor was president of our state association about 20 years ago. Our people are involved in the parties, too. We've got precinct chairs and vice chairs and county delegates throughout the state.'"

"No fewer than 22 people who make their living in real estate also serve as members of the Utah legislature. Not surprisingly, Utah has some of the toughest real estate laws in the country -- protecting both private property rights and the business interests of Realtors. When Realtors hope to get favorable legislation passed, they know there is one legislator in particular who will lend a friendly ear. Al Mansell was president of the Utah Senate until he dropped his leadership role to president of the National Association of Realtors.

"Utah might have the most Realtors serving as legislators, but there are Realtors in virtually every legislative district in the country -- and they make their presence felt."

"Ask lobbyists for the industry to name a time they failed to get their way and the only sound you hear may be a long pause. Chris Kyler has been with the Utah Association of Realtors during the state's last seven legislative sessions. 'Of the bills that we've opposed since 1999, we've been able to defeat 100 percent o them,' he says. 'We either defeated all of them or we amended them so that it made our position neutral.' The group's rate of success on bills it actively supported isn't quite as high, Kyler says, but it's still 'well over 90 percent for seven years running.'"

"Realtors are careful to mix assestions of clout with arguments about sound public policy. They invariably say they are representing not just their own industry but the property rights of homeowners in general, and that those are a fundamental tenet of American democracy. 'I don't have to be that skilled as an advocate,' Kyler says. 'I don't want to sound cocky, but I think the primary reason we win is that we're right."

"The association backs up that analysis with a lot of money. During the 2004 election cycle, the Utah Association of Realtors donated $226,930 to state-level political candidates and causes -- a figure matched almost dollar for dollar by individual Realtors and other people in the business. That made real estate the largest single donor to Utah politicians that year, except for political parties and self-financing candidates."

"Realtors have lost a few minor property-rights battles recently... . But Realtors are still mostly getting their way, whether in bills that affect them directly or broader fights over growth restrictions and other land-use policies."

Now how could that be?


At 9:08 AM, Blogger steve u. said...

What happened to the good 'ol days when most legislators were lawyers?

At 5:39 AM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

It's not just at the state level, Wilf. My town's city council and planning meetings appear to be packed with realtors and builders on both sides of the podium. But I guess much of the business of development has to occur there so it's not that surprising.

If you believe what's good for the real estate industry is good for Utah, then I guess it's ok to have a state run by realtors.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Wilf said...

Ah, the perfect world, one run by lawyers and realtors.

But then, who was it that said, "The world is run by those who show up?" Still true, I guess.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Smiley said...



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