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Making their mark: realtors’ lobby put a $50,000 fountain on capital grounds. Ruffles and flourishes The session’s worst lobby By Rod Davis Austin The world of the Legislature is the world of Low Things, a place where bottoming out is an art form. To win any special measure of opprobrium there, one must outperform men and women who do for a living what others do for five to ten years. Or two to five, depending on the jury. It is a commonplace to suggest that there are as many crooks as nooks in the Capitol \(itself constructed care are required, lest the truly grotesque become too familiar. Those who take and those who give, those who legislate and those who lobby, share an identity, it is true; but there are distinctions and downward gradations worth noting. To wit: At the bottom of the bottom of the 1977 Texas Legislature was the Texas Association of Realtors, a lobby of comparatively modest membership, but whose wealth and lack of aplomb have easily made it the most controversial pressure group in town, more ridiculed than even the Right-to-Life zealots and more openly despised than the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Association of Bankers, or the highway lobby all very stiff competition. Shotgun donations The TAR represents the approximately 35,000 licensed realtors in Texas, who are to be found in cities and counties of every size. Through its political funding arm, the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee, the TAR has spent .a recorded total of $203,118 for candidates and causes since the state campaign contribution reporting law went into effect in September, 1975. \(About 40 percent of the money TREPAC raises goes to the National Realtors Association for disbursement to conThe TAR is not Texas’ top-spending lobbythe TMA, for example, spent $467,782 in the same 21-month period but the TAR is singular in the democratic quality of its bounty. In 1976, TREPAC contributed to the campaigns of roughly three-quarters of all sitting legislators lieutenant governor, and the speaker chief lobbyist Gerhardt Schulle: “We don’t separate a segment of the Legislature. We approach everyone.” Checking up on candidates back home, Schulle might have added, are local realtor boards and individual realtors; such home-district pressure isn’t an unusual tactic for a lobby, but in the case of the realtors it is, generously put, overdone. It is difficult to trace the influence of TAR financial contributions because of the shotgun pattern of donations, but it doesn’t take much to see where major and why. Last year, every House committee chairman except Ben Reyes, Craig Washington and Eddie Bernice Johnson TREPAC contributions ranging from $200 to more than $1,000. Ten of the received from $1,000 to $8,700. Some current officeholders survived impressive TAR opposition. The TAR spent $5,000 on Joe Gibson’s failed attempt to defeat Sen. Grant Jones, and at least $10,000 went to former Corpus Christi Sen. Mike McKinnon’s unsuccessful re-election campaign against Carlos Truan last fall. Although it represents a single profession and, presumably, a single set of interests, the TAR has in the last five years applied lobbying pressure on behalf of an incredible variety of legislation. Schulle says he is concerned with “anything that affects real property and real property rights. Ninety percent of the bills we’re involved with don’t affect our profession but our property owners and the right to own property. Our basic concern is to protect the rights of real property owners. You could say we look at it from a selfish standpoint, but when you take away property rights you take away value.” In 1975, the TAR took positions on 86 bills. Of the 12 bills it favored, 10 were passed. Of the 74 it opposed, 72 were defeated and the 2 escapees were gutted in a manner “acceptable to the TAR,” Schulle says. `Gumming up the works’ This session, the TAR had an “interest” in about eighty bills and lobbied actively for about half of them. Sad to say, TAR’s efforts are rarely directed toward the betterment of mankind. The most concise characterization of the TAR program is provided by Austin Sen. Lloyd Doggett: “The fact is that they’re against everything good and for everything bad. T-A-R . . . that’s a perfect name . . . TAR. They really gum up the works.” Doggett may be biased. The TAR has successfully blocked his bill to let Travis County have county ordinance-making power for the last two sessions. Doggett dislikes Schulle so, he has banned him from his office. What is TAR for and against? Texas Realtor magazine summed up TAR’s 1975 effort by noting its lobbyists were “active and successful in the defeat of environmental legislation.” As well, they opposed land-use legislation, city land use and extraterritorial jurisdiction, June 17, 1977 21