When it comes to politics, it's all about the Benjamins. In other words, money talks. And the more money, the louder the voice.
As is almost always the case, the biggest spenders last November were the biggest winners. And not just the candidates but also those who backed the candidates.
Indeed, if you are in the real estate game, Nov. 5th was a great day. The Congressional horses backed by the housing lobby won a remarkably high percentage of their races. And of course, housing interests were some of the largest contributors during the 2001-2002 election cycle.
The National Association of REALTORS®, which says it donated $4.2 million in hard money directly to candidates and committees, had an overall success rate of 96 percent. And the National Association of Home Builders, which handed over $2.1 million in campaign contributions, did equally as well.
Money "gets you in the playoffs," an NAR spokesman remarked.
In the Senate, NAR, the nation's largest trade association with some 840,000 members, was active in 31 races and picked 29 winners. In the House, 405 of the 422 candidates it favored carried the day.
The builders' group scorecard reads almost the same. It won in 25 of the 28 Senate races in which it bet money, and it picked 323 out of 334 winners in the House.
The money spent by the housing lobby in the most recent two-year election cycle may seem like a lot. But the two organizations are far down the list of the 80 largest contributors as ranked by Center for Responsive Politics.
Both the Realtors and Builders handed out far more in the 1999-2000 cycle, which, of course, included a Presidential election.
However, NAR's Political Action Committee was the largest single PAC contributor for the 2000-'02 period, donating $3.397 million to its favorites candidates. The NAHB's PAC was the 17th largest contributor, giving away $1.737 million.
Here's another interesting fact for CRP: Since 1989, NAR has been the nation's third largest political donor, doling out more than $21.750 million.
Other big real estate-related contributors over the last two years were Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two huge government chartered financial institutions which keep the mortgage money flowing to housing. Together, the two secondary market giants forked over nearly $4.9 million to their favorite candidates.
The Mortgage Bankers Association, on the other hand, passed out a relatively minuscule $307,400.
But it takes more than just dollars to get your voice heard, says political pundit Charlie Cook, who saluted NAR's effectiveness at the group's annual convention in New Orleans in November.
"It's one thing to write checks," the analyst said. "But what really gets you noticed in close races is when you get engaged."
In that regard, the NAR said it spent more than $1 million in soft money in 88 "opportunity races" to alert the local electorate who the pro-real estate candidate was. And the NAHB mounted voter mobilization efforts in two key Senate races and six House battles.
Incidentally, when it came to Republican or Democrat, the two groups played no favorites. In NAR's case, for example, 53 percent of its PAC money went to Republicans and 47 percent to Democrats.
"Regardless of where the party lines fall," said NAR President Cathy Whatley, a broker from Jacksonville, Fla, "we look at where the candidates fall on the Realtor line."