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Government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests

By DOUG THOMPSON
October 14, 2011

From 1987-1992, I ran the political programs division of The National Association of Realtors — then the largest trade association in the world and operator of the largest political action committee.

As vice president for political programs administration, I had oversight of the PAC, an “independent expenditures” program that could dump millions into targeted races and an “issues mobilization” operation that also spent millions on ballot initiatives that favored the real estate industry.

Our mission was simple: support, influence and when possible control the passage of legislation that benefited the business of selling real estate. We represented 800,000 members of the association — and because of our size and our deep pockets, we often succeeded where others failed.  We had the money — and the clout — to influence a government that panders to special interests and elected officials who care little about serving the general public that elected them to office.

My five years with the Realtors confirmed what I had already learned about government as a journalist: That democracy is an illusion and America as a “democratic republic” is a sham.

Government is driven by the haves at the expense of the have-nots.

Example:

In 1987, one of our lobbyists learned that the House Ways & Means Committee was considering limited or possibly eliminating the tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgage loans.

Tax deduct-ability of mortgage interest was a major part of the Realtor legislative program.

Steve Driesler, then Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, came into my office to share the news and said: “We’ve got to do something about that.”

“Don’t worry,” said, “I’ll take care of it.”

I booked recording studio time, wrote a script, hired an announcer and bought saturation drive-time radio advertizing in the district of each member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

When votes — and more importantly, home owners — drove to and from work in those districts they heard a voice say: “Did you know Congress wants to eliminate one of the main reasons you bought a home?  Did you know they want to do away with your ability to deduct the interest on your mortgage on your taxes?  If you don’t think that’s a good idea why not call (Name of Congressman) and tell him or her to protect your home investment. Or call (phone number) and we’ll put you in touch with your elected representative.”

I booked two weeks of radio time.  Calls began to flood Congressional offices immediately.

Two days after the ad blitz launched, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski called Driesler into his office and said: “Call off your attack dogs.  We scrapped that dumb idea.”

NAR claimed that studies showed most people took the advantage of deducting mortgage interest into account when purchasing a home. In fact, the claim was not true. Studies show deducting interest has little to do with the decision of potential homeowners to purchase a home.  Among civilized nations, counties with higher percentages of home ownership do not allow deductions for mortgage interest.

But it was a good populist argument — even if it was a lie.

And when you have enough money to influence public opinion, lies easily become truth.

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15 Responses to Government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests

  1. woody188

    October 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Maybe you can do that again since mortgage interest deductions are again on the chopping block under the auspices of austerity. Of course the National Association of Realtors estimates that changes to the deduction could reduce home values by up to 15 percent and “would crush the working class in resort areas and damage consumer confidence to buy a home in middle-class areas.”

    But there again, Congress does not care about the working or middle-class, the middle-class of which is down to just 26 percent of Americans.

  2. Carl Nemo **==

    October 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Thanks Doug for a great “insider’s perspective” as to how the system really works for ‘them’ and not “We the People”. What’s also disconcerting is that the “National Association of Realtors” is just one of thousands of influence peddlers corrupting the decisions of policymakers.

    Seemingly the Republic is doomed and until there’s rioting and blood running in the streets there will be no change any of us can believe in.

    In time, although I can’t specifically say when, I smell revolution in the air not only for America, but Europe too as our interwoven complex financial systems unravel. Those without jobs, no food and without homes have nothing to lose, so they’ll resort to violence in order to survive.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Sandune

    October 15, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I watch the demonstrations from many major cities across the USA and they all have a legitimate reason for their marching and sign making. When I was younger I would make note of these demonstrations and send out notifications to many living in their districts with clip boards loaded with voter registration forms. Each state has a given number of counties and I had dividers on my clip board ready for someone of another country wanting to register to vote and allowing my group to do it. All legal, all action driven and maybe a tad more proof is needed before taking the form to the post office.

    A great many whiners who march and cry with the horrors of their predicaments should learn the system of voting the bastards out of office and learning who should replace them in the House. My volunteers were trained not to get into a partisan discussion except to convince people to act as well as march for what they believe is right.

    This is no longer a popular form of action and some of the excuses we heard from the great unwashed masses were ridiculous. I made it clear that felons will be rejected by the proper authorities.

    When I was passing out petitions for Perot to get on the California ballots I always had a pile of voter registration forms. It was a good excuse to push voting. I wouldn’t waste my time today as people alone or in groups have no interest in politics and would rather whine.

    Maybe this is why we have such boobs in the house asnd senate.

  4. Carl Nemo **==

    October 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    “A great many whiners who march and cry with the horrors of their predicaments should [learn the system of voting the bastards out of office] and learning who should replace them in the House.” …extract from post my brackets

    Seemingly you missed the point of Doug’s expose’ Ms. Price. With the magnitude of corruptive money flowing about in D.C., seemingly no one is above the influence of such $$ ‘pressure’. / : |

    It’s said everyone has their price. So few in number are people that can’t be “bought off”, that it must be assumed that anyone landing in D.C., no matter how well intentioned on the campaign trail will rollover given enough time to the pressures of lobbyists and the percs they provide including campaign money to insure their incumbency at the public trough along with their continued connection to this ‘generous’ source funding.

    Carl Nemo **==

  5. Sandune

    October 15, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Well then, if everyone has a price then why not simply cancel the democracy. The problem is that it is not the lobbyists who are at fault or even breaking the law. It all comes down to the elected officials. You want to blame someone else when it is people like you who continue to elect members of Congress who are breaking the law.

    The voters have lost control through laziness and stupidity. I look at this situation as I look at everything. You look at the government as being corrupted by money and yet it does not seem to get you to change the government.

    I always figured that Doug opened this forum for discussions on the problems but all he has done is find a group who want to blame the lobbyists. Obvioiusly you do not work for any programs that needs paid lobbyists to keep an eye on the house. Maybe if you did sponsor something, anything that needs watching you might see it differently but then it would mean getting off your ARSE and throwing offending bastards out of office. No, no, you want the lobbyists blamed for everything and you never see the consequences of this foolish action. Money is your enemy. Blame it on money. No wonder America is in such trouble.

    Take over the government and redistribute the wealth and then go away. The wealth will always end up back in the hands of the people who made the wealth. The lobbyists are protected by the Constitution. Unless you are involved in any charitable group or a group who is working on civil rights, you’d have no reason to appreciate what lobbyists do.

    CHB is awash with this silly socialism and hatred of money.

    Do you even know who builds the hospitals all over America? Do you have any idea who really feeds those in poverty? Do you have any idea who ships billions of dollars to the most poverty stricken areas of Africa or Asia? Americans of great wealth. You want to take the money away from these people to line your sad pockets. Have you seen the list or organizations financed by Melinda and Bill Gates? These people pay lobbyists to protect their investments so the government doesn’t try and stop what they do.

    Cancel your damn democracy and get in line to take what you have not earned.

    • Carl Nemo **==

      October 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Seemingly I’ve ruffled your ‘feathers’ Ms. Price.:D

      “CHB is awash with this silly socialism and hatred of money.” …extract from post

      Based on this single sentence, its seems you haven’t been reading the comments of posters to this site over time, but simply use it as your personal ‘horn’ to blast your lifelong bonfides, that from reading such would lead one to think you are a female Da Vinci. / : | I’ve never detected such bias, if anything the opposite with many ideas proffered by participants on how to correct the ills of our government.

      Possibly you’ve missed your meds today?

      Another thing if I had nickel for everytime you’ve threatened to either leave CHB or insult the site host and the readership’s acumen I’d have accumulated a small fortune in pocket change.

      If you find us to be so vile, then possibly it’s time to carry your threat of self banishment…no?

      Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine

      October 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      This is the best you’ve ever written Sandy. 100% spot on. Focused on the point at hand and with purpose beyond your typical fare. Kudos.

      • Carl Nemo **==

        October 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

        / : | …?

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Almandine

          October 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

          Actually… in contrast to your reply, she never blasted forth with her bona fides, never threatened to leave, and was quite cogent with her remarks… your reply to same notwithstanding.

          What she did do, however, was to call you out for your “all hat, no cattle” whiner attitude, as in “it would mean getting off your ARSE and throwing offending bastards out of office.”

          Chuckle time, I says to meself…

          • Carl Nemo **==

            October 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

            Almandine, I’ve noticed a degeneration in our site relationship over time; I.E., from ‘friends in thought’ to one of adversarial probes on your part as in this case.

            Ms. Price’s post is all over the map as usual along with her hallmark style of attacking CHB members with her know it all hauteur. Granted she didn’t post her life story as usual or her threat to leave CHB, but she’s done such so many times, that I’d say it’s her modus operandi making it fair game to integrate into a post such as this one concerning CHB’rs getting off their collective arses etc.

            You don’t know squat about my proactiveness concerning politics, my interface with elected officials etc. and what I contribute to various causes.

            I send emails, fax documents and make calls on a regular basis to my Congressional District rep and my two Senators including an interface with my state based reps. On occasion I show up at their so-called ‘town hall’ meetings. That’s all anyone can do shy of marshalling a well armed force to overthrow the government which would be foolish due to the fact they’ve got the weapons tech and manpower to crush just about any revolt imagineable.

            As far as your writings are concerned, I’ve noticed an incremental degeneration over time to the level of one that’s permanently frustrated with the order of the day, but lacks the sophistication to realize that they’ve got “We the People” roped and seemingly their dopes too. Don’t condemn me because I don’t share your pollyannish optimism. The definition of a ‘fanatic’ is one who redoubles their efforts in the face of certain failure…no? / : |

            Carl Nemo **==

            • Almandine

              October 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm

              And now I’m a degenerate too… but with pollyannish optimism, no less. Whatever floats yer boat, Cap’n.

              But in fairness to Sandy, to whom I haven’t replied in many many months because of her “modus operandi” that you so rightly identify, you need more than mere rationalization to justify your unfounded remarks in this specific instance.

              I chose to comment on her post because I was both surprised and happy to see her focusing outwardly on something else… thus my positive reinforcement of such a rare happenstance. I didn’t probe anything – especially with an adversarial tone – I merely complimented her on a well written set of cogent comments that I do not feel were “all over the place”.

              It was you who chose to probe my intent, to which I then replied… as I often have with regard to your own modus operandi, which has become as morosely predictable as what she writes. Just a different set of gripes. Funny, though, how she took the implications of your thought process to the limit… “why not simply cancel the democracy”? I wish you had replied to that question, yourself, which would be the type of response that “friends in thought” strive for.

              I, like you, have regularly watched and read comments of diminishing quality here at CHB, especially as compared with just a few years ago, when dialogue was more interpresonal, more robust and threads were more extensive, especially when self-generated blog content was possible. That format allowed for wider ranging discussions in which ideas were fleshed out better with more give and take.

              What with comments now being focused toward the outrage of the day, and with the outrages never much changing, it is all too easy to pigeonhole oneself with the same old, same old… whereupon those with any degree of analytical skill whatsoever pretty soon get what you have to say, have heard it time and again, and don’t need to revisit the idea again.

              New ideas all around!!! Here, here…

              • Carl Nemo **==

                October 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

                Touche’ good buddy…!

                Btw I simply referenced a “degeneration in our site relationship” and did not call you a degenerate. There’s a big difference.

                I referred to post content and not one’s character. In the event you somehow think so, then I’ll apologize so as not to poison the waters concerning any future repartee on this site regardless of a difference in opinion.

                Best regards,

                Nemo **==

                • Almandine

                  October 17, 2011 at 8:24 am

                  Not a problem Carl… never was. We all wish for much better, especially with our “degenerate” governing class, and you may have hit upon it… my hope springs eternal. (Not that I’m holding my breath.)

                  HAPPY TRAILS

                • Jon

                  October 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm

                  I’m a looter. According to Almadine.

                  J.

  6. Sandune

    October 16, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Yes Carl, you are correct. I am battling the whiners and complainers which make up most of the voters in America. I keep hoping that instead of whining and bitching, many will simply gather other voters to throw the bastards out of office.

    I started at the same time CHB opened. I have come and gone over the years and yet still hope that a few activists might show up. It is a hopeless condition. If the members are not protesting for Jesus Christ they are protesting against money being given to the Congress.

    I am beating a dead horse here and people on the internet are doomed to complain to the bitter end. In case you haven’t noticed, there are many states who are trying to stop voter registration. I see no objections to this plan as people are too lazy to try and stop it. Using the masses who are protesting to stop for a minute and register to vote, might send a message to the Congress to shape up or get out. That what the message we used during Perot’s entrance to the election. It worked and got him on all the ballots and we registered over 2 million voters. Perot’s economic plans made a difference over the years. The American people will always line up to blame everyone but themselves for the government corruption.