Viewpoint: Campaign money gets personal
Missoula, to me, is the small town that takes the long view… the town whose mayor helped us take on Carlyle, an intimidating global investment firm, in order to wrest our water from the international market, while Carlyle resisted and gouged us every way it could. But we knew that water has value beyond measure.
That same mayor made a proclamation every January, calling for an end to dark money in elections, by demanding that Congress pass the amendment that would overturn the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and by respecting the 75% of Missoula voters, and the 75% of Montana voters who had done the same.
So it feels pretty personal that Mayor Engen’s legacy is being challenged by the second-biggest lobbying group in the USA, the National Association of Realtors, and their $125,000, which was requested by our local Missoula Organization of Realtors, in order to far outspend opponents and elect a realtor.
This is such a shame. At this point in time, Missoula needs to pull together openly to solve the housing crisis, not have realtors working behind the scenes.
- Young families are leaving Missoula to find homes they can afford.
- Neighborhoods are stressed by the burden of providing shelter to houseless Missoulians.
- Rising property assessments are driving up property taxes, without relief from the state that in the past eased the tax rate down when housing prices spiked but now is shifting the property tax burden onto residential rather than business owners.
All of this causes the fear on which Dark Money thrives, using surveys to find points of division, not in order to heal them, but to capitalize on them.
I find this so sad because we all need to bring our creativity and good will to this problem. Realtors have expertise and have potential to openly contribute to our community.
For example, recently, a realtor helped a new co-op of renters by buying and holding their residence until contracts and funding could be arranged.
But realtors also have access to great power and wealth. We need to know that they are willing to consider all alternatives that may help all Missoulians weather these times.
Unfortunately, in 2010, the National Association of Realtors showed how they can pre-empt our options, by spending $2 million on a constitutional amendment to prevent a property transaction tax, which most states have and sometimes use to fund housing.
Apparently, when realtors don’t want an approach taken, they can have their way.
It's a shame that now we have to ask the question, what kinds of approaches do realtors oppose and how independent can their candidate be?
We all deserve an apology from the Missoula Organization of Realtors, for the damage they have done to our elections and our trust. They need to take down their billboard, contribute $125,000 to the housing fund, and don’t ask the National Association of Realtors for more money.
We know they can do better. They are our neighbors.
Sue Kirchmyer is chair of Montanans Move to Amend.