Delaware Liberal has recently had a series of posts concerning the Delaware Association of Realtors (DAR) and their possible involvement with the pro-Trump and pro-MAGA Jones political action committee (PAC) called “Building Strong Committees.” The Delaware Association of Realtors’s President, Beau Zebly, denied that involvement in the following statement:
“There is ZERO affiliation between Strengthening Communities and the other PAC from NJ. First off we are a non-partisan PAC and have supported both sides of the aisle. Most importantly NCC races are local and the Delaware Association of Realtors does not get involved in local races. To call our Trade Association shady is wrong and somewhat defamatory. Please feel free to give me a call to discuss what we actually stand for.
Notwithstanding the vague legal threat against Delaware Liberal, I decided to check to see if Mr. Zebly’s claims that the DAR does not get involved in local races and that they are non partisan is true. I looked at DAR’s own campaign finance reports from the last two election cycles. I will note donations to the following local candidates in 2016 and 2018:
- Citizens to Elect Vincent White – $600 – 8/16/18
- Friends of Matthew Lindell – $200 – 5/11/17
- Hosfelt for Levy Court – $600 – 4/28/17
- Committee to Elect Tanner Polce – $300 – 4/13/17
- Friends to Elect IG Burton – $600 – 10/9/16
- Citizens for Burdette – $200 – 9/22/16
- Friends to Elect Lisa Hudson Briggs – $400 – 9/6/16
- Meyer for NCC – $600 – 10/26/16
- People for Pruzycki – $600 – 10/24/16
First, the DAR has gotten involved in local races, as shown above, if you consider campaign donations as “involvement,” and I do. Indeed, and ironically, they donated to Matt Meyer in 2016. Second, I think Mr. Zebley is confusing the terms nonpartisan and bipartisan. The DAR donates to both Democrats and Republicans. That’s bipartisan. Nonpartisan, to me anyway, is no donations to candidates of any party, and instead donating to causes and other community organizations.
Mr. Zebly further claimed that the DAR is not affiliated with the “other PAC from NJ.” I did not investigate that and will take his denial at face value. But after finding that the DAR did make bipartisan donations to local county level candidates and pretty much every single General Assembly candidate of both parties, I decided to take a look at the Delaware Association of Realtors’ PACs and what they do with them, other than making donations to candidates.
The Delaware Association of Realtors (DAR) has three Political Action Committees (PACs). One PAC is named “DelPAC” and the other PAC is “Strengthening our Communities.” There is also a “Third Party Advertising Committee” named “Strengthening Our Communities Third Party Advertising Committee.” Having multiple PACs means that the Delaware Association of Realtors has found a way to skirt the monetary campaign contribution limits of $600 per legislative candidate and $1,200 per statewide candidate, and they can donate twice those maximum amounts to candidates they support through direct donations.
The “third party advertising committee” appears to have been created for independent expenditures (campaign advertising) where there are no monetary limits.
The money that flows into DelPAC appears to come from individual real estate agents. All of the money flowing into “Strengthening Our Communities” comes from DelPAC. The money that flows into the Strengthening Our Communities Third Party Advertising PAC comes from a combination of the “Strengthening Our Communities” PAC and the National Association of Realtors.
Here’s an example of the benefits of having multiple PACS. The Delaware Association of Realtors’ DelPAC donated $600 to Representative Deborah Hudson’s campaign on 10/8/18, and then on 10/22/18, the Delaware Association of Realtors’ other PAC, Strengthening our Communities, donated another $600 to the Hudson campaign.
Now this is where it gets really interesting.
According to the 2019 campaign finance report submitted by DAR, DelPAC, which seems to be their main PAC, only made two campaign contributions in 2019, a $500 contribution to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and a $500 contribution to the Blue/Gold PAC, a Republican PAC.
Those numbers seemed unusual since in 2018 DAR’s DelPAC made over $60,000 in campaign contributions to candidates and committees, including a $20,000 contribution to their other PAC, Strengthening Our Communities, and in 2017, another off-election year like 2019, DAR’s DelPAC made almost $7,000 in campaign contributions to individual candidate committees and sent $15,000 to Strengthening Our Communities.
But when you search for the Delaware Association of Realtors as a 2019 campaign contributor instead of relying on DAR’s own 2019 campaign finance report, almost $12,000 in 2019 campaign contributions will pop up, contributions that were reported by the candidates and candidate committees, but not reported by DAR. Those contributions included $2,000 to the Democratic State Committee and $2,500 to the Republican State Committee of Delaware.
And this failure to disclose political spending seems to continue into the 2020 campaign season. The mailer for Bruce Ennis paid for by DelPAC/Strengthening Our Communities has not been reported. According to Delaware Campaign Finance regulations, Strengthening Our Communities ThirdParty Advertising PAC had 24 hours to declare the spending on the mailer:
9.1.5 If an expenditure subject to Section 8031 is made more than 30 days before a primary or special election or 60 days before a general election, the report required under Section 8031 shall be filed within 48 hours after such expenditure is made. If the expenditure subject to Section 8031 is made 30 days or less before a primary or special election or 60 days or less before an election, such report shall be filed with the Commissioner within 24 hours after such expenditure is made. For purposes of this section, an expenditure shall be deemed to be made on the date it is paid or obligated, whichever is earlier.
So DAR is not disclosing which candidates they are making direct donations to and they are also not disclosing the money they are spending on campaign advertising. That does seem shady to me.
But is DAR getting anything for all of this unreported campaign spending?
In 2019, coincidentally the same year DAR failed to report the money they were funneling to candidates including hefty donations made directly to both state parties, DAR had a major legislative win.
House Bill 235 passed the Delaware House of Representatives on June 30, 2019 at 11:08pm and passed the Senate on July 1, 2019 at 12.28pm, in the last hours of the last day of session. This is what HB 235 does:
This Act will prohibit political subdivisions of this State from requiring real estate licensees to obtain an additional business license or pay taxes in order to list property for sellers or represent buyers for the purchase of real estate.