National realtors group spending big bucks supporting Hoss and Staver
An outside realtors group is spending thousands of dollars supporting two Rochester City Council candidates this election cycle.
The National Association of Realtors has invested a combined $30,000 — big money for municipal elections — into backing campaign bids for incumbent council president Randy Staver and Ward 2 challenger Scott Hoss.
News of the financial support was first reported Tuesday by the Post-Bulletin. Both Hoss and Staver told the paper they were unaware the realtors group had been independently backing their election bids.
There is no indication the association has been coordinating with either candidate, making the support legal under campaign finance law. Third-party groups, or political action committees, are allowed to support candidates financially as long as they operate independently of the campaigns.
The realtors association has spent $13,810 to support Hoss, who is challenging incumbent council member Michael Wojcik. The group has put in $16,184 to support Staver, who is being challenged by businessman Sean Allen.
According to a campaign finance report filed with the city, the funds have been used for consulting, data, mailers and phone calls backing the candidates.
The association describes itself as "America's largest trade association, representing over 1.1 million members .... involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries."
According to OpenSecrets.org: "While the bulk of its interests revolve around property management and control, the group also lobbies federal lawmakers and the administration on virtually every issue facing the business sector, including health care, bankruptcy legislation and tax rates."
In addition to supporting candidates for federal office, the association has a track record of investing in local elections, as well (examples here and here). The group has historically given to both sides of the political aisle.
It's worth noting: Back in July, we reported that a group of influential business leaders were in the process of forming an organization that would allow them to privately support local elections. Those involved, however, later denied involvement and word around town was the group dropped the idea once their plans were made public. The big difference, of course, between the two groups is transparency. The realtors association fully disclosed their funding to the city; the "dark money" group had no intention of doing so.
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(Cover: National Association of Realtors)