Astroturf Update

At the rate of spending revealed so far it appears that the NC Association of Realtors and the NC Home Builders Association have committed to spend at least $400,000 each in fake grassroots efforts to defeat the transfer tax in the 16 counties holding a referendum on the issue. Contributions from affiliated realtor groups could bring the total projected state budget close to $1,000,000 for local astroturf committees alone. This in addition to state level lobbying expenditures by NCAR of $938,787

Johnston County Astroturf Report

According to documents filed 10/26/07 with the Johnston County Board of Elections for the Johnston County Property Owners Against Transfer Taxes, Donald Byrd, a director of the Johnston County Association of Realtors, is treasurer and funding in the amount of $74,386 comes from the NC Association of Realtors, Triangle MLS and, the NC Home Builders Association. Of this $69,532 has been spent with $4,854 cash on hand.

$25,000 Triangle MLS
$28,500 NC Home Builders Association
$14,500 NC Association of Realtors
   $999 NC Association of Realtors in-kind
 $5,387 Other sources (previous in-kind)
$74,386 Total

Harnett County Astroturf Report

According to documents filed 10/26/07 with the Harnett County Board of Elections for the Harnett County Citizen Against The Home Tax, Jan Morris, a Realtor in Coats, is treasurer and funding in the amount of $45,425 comes from the NC Association of Realtors, the Fayetteville Association of Realtors and, the NC Home Builders Association. Of this $42,938 has been spent with $2,488 cash on hand.

$1,000 Fayetteville Association of Realtors
$19,655 NC Home Builders Association
$18,700 NC Association of Realtors
   $999 NC Association of Realtors in-kind
 $5,071 Other sources (previous in-kind)
$45,425 Total

According to documents filed 10/18/07 with the Harnett County Board of Elections, Dallas Woodhouse registered the AFP-Harnett County referendum committee listing a contribution of $2,900 from Americans For Prosperity, Washington, DC.

This follows similar reports from Henderson County and from Chatham County:

The Henderson County Coalition to Protect Home Equity committee's funding of $42,233 comes from the NC Home Builders Association ($24,950) and the NC Association of Realtors ($17,283)

According to documents filed 10/17/07 with the Chatham County Board of Elections, Dallas Woodhouse registered the AFP-Chatham County referendum committee listing a contribution of $2,900 from Americans For Prosperity, Washington, DC.

An update from Stop The NC Home Ticks
 
 

Comments

The hand of Puppetmaster is revealed

As the man behind this crap curtain. (For those unfamiliar, Art Pope is the Magnificent Benefactor and All Powerful Oz who sponsors much of the Greed Fest here in North Carolina, including Dallas Woodhouse and the NC Americans for Prosperity.)

According to documents filed 10/17/07 with the Chatham County Board of Elections, Dallas Woodhouse registered the AFP-Chatham County referendum committee listing a contribution of $2,900 from Americans For Prosperity, Washington, DC.

According to documents filed 10/18/07 with the Harnett County Board of Elections, Dallas Woodhouse registered the AFP-Harnett County referendum committee listing a contribution of $2,900 from Americans For Prosperity, Washington, DC.

Trick or Trick

I can understand AFP piggy-backing on an issue like this. It's about a $50,000 investment for transfer tax referendum counties and maybe $100,000 if you include counties with a sales tax referendum.

The roughly $2 million realtors and home builders are spending appears to be little more than throwing their weight around and, bad-mouthing local governments will come back to haunt them in the worst way.

Got my third piece of bully-mail

from the Johnston Group yesterday in the mailbox. And this one really takes the cake. It's not just another 8.5x11 color glossy regurgitation of the fear mongering talking points. It's a folded 17x22 color glossy regurgitation of the bully-mail fear mongering talking points.

And just last year some of these same people were all up in the School Board's face about forced reassignments because over crowding in some schools was so bad and new schools were having to be built on a staggered basis.

And the text on the card? Suffice it to say they've reached heretofore unmatched levels of dishonesty. Once I get home I'll transcribe some of it.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Ooozing up from the astroturf ...

::::sniff::::
Do you smell that?

Here's a peak at the bully mail from the Home Ticks and the twisted bassackwards logic of a lie in progress:

This new tax is permanent. It will never go away.
(Because in our magical astroturf kingdom, property taxes are going away AAALL the time.)

Senior citizens, first-time home buyers, churches, and other important community organizations will have to pay this tax.
(Because in our magical astroturf kingdom, none of them have to pay any property taxes or sales taxes at all. Ever.)

The whining and bullying goes on for eight whole bullet points, properly speckled with louder bolded phrases. My favorite is this one:

The transfer tax is an unreliable source of revenue.

(Because in our magical astroturf kingdom, we don't care if banks say transfer taxes are as reliable as property taxes. And I don't care if counties with 1% transfer taxes say transfer taxes are reliable. They are NOT reliable. Because I said so. Leave me alone. Go away. Get out of my magical astroturf kingdom. :-p I don't like you.)

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Johnston County

Johnston County Commissioners have apparently said they will not impose the tax even if it is endorsed by referendum. Sort of like "If elected I will not serve". As I said earlier this tax is only as permanent as the next commissioner's meeting.

That 0.4% will apply to indeed apply everyone who has paid 6% to a realtor.

Moore Co residents

received an excellent glossy brochure entitled: Land Transfer Tax: Just the Facts, for an Educated Vote. It looks like it was produced by the county, because it's got the county seal on it.

It is beautifully done, and explains the referenda (yup, we've got two of them) on the Nov. 6 ballot. The main thrust is the explanation is that if the 0.4% Land Transfer Tax is not approved, property taxes will have to be raised 5 cents to fund the educational capital needs. If the LTT is approved, the property tax would be raised a little more than 1 cent.

It gives examples of how much the proposed tax would cost on transactions of $150,000, $300,000, and $500,000 ($600, $1,200, and $2000, respectively.) It also reminds voters that will-related transfers, gifts of property or inherited property will not be subject to the tax. Nor would legally mandated transfers, consolidation or merger transfers, or any transfer where nothing of value is provided in exchange.

It goes on to explain the bond issues as well, which don't seem as much of a big deal to people here. We've got to have the new elementary and middle schools, and existing schools are in dire needs of improvements. Because of the loss of of so many jobs, and the increased demand and enrollment, Sandhills Community College has several needs that must be met, including better highway access, and a new emergency services training facility.

When compared to the Home Ticks brochures, this looks sensible and smart. It's well laid out, easy to read and understand. I don't know who designed it, but I'm glad they did.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

You have reasonable people

running Moore County's government. Johnston used to have that ... once upon a time. Now all but two of our Commissioners are total radicals and they act like they either don't give a darn and love to watch the School Board figure out how to ask for the money they need for schools every year ... or our Commissioners just can't count. I've given up on trying to figure out which it is.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

It's so unusual for us!

I'm not sure I can get used to it. In yesterday's paper the MCDP chair stated the Dem position on the various issues, including the land transfer tax:

Support the land transfer tax.

This tax is a necessary addition to the county's ability to develop sufficient financial resources to meet the expanding service needs of a growing population. Contrary to some sloganeering, this is not a home tax, but a levy on real estate transactions, both residential and commercial.

The capital investment needs of the county, including the schools and the jail, are well documented, and the expected revenues from the land transfer tax will not cover even one-half of the financing requirements of those needs. The funds from the tax are being committed to capital, not operating, expenditures.

This is not about an unnecessary expansion in government; it is about the capacity of local government to responsibly provide needed services.

Not unexpected, from the Democrats - chair Brian Deaton did a great job explaining the local party's position on the issues.

The surprise was - Republican Party Chair John Owen came >-

We note clearly that the land transfer tax that opponents have titled the "home" tax will generate funds to be used to keep property tax rates down. In Moore County, the Board of Commissioners has adopted a resolution directing that funds generated by the transfer tax will be used to pay the bond indebtedness of the schools and community college.

Although the Moore County Republican Party does not officially endorse proposals such as the bond issues or the land transfer tax option, we believe that a large turnout of informed voters will make the proper selections. The MCRP urges the voters to sort out the facts, think realistically and then vote their conscience.

Encouraging that both sides seem to see through the Home Ticks histrionics.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Available online?

Do know if the brochure is available online anywhere?

I checked the county website; it's not there.

I will try to scan it and post it.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Tuesday showdown

As much money as they have at their disposal, the realtors and homebuilders can't afford to fight this in 94 counties so they are going all out to suppress it as much as possible in the 16 voting next Tuesday.

There is a general feeling that the combo sales/transfer referendums have a higher likelihood of defeat due to increased number of opponents coming out to vote against both options. Those counties are Davie, Graham, Harnett, Johnston, Rutherford.

Astroturf Update 11/1

The Charlotte Observer has an article by Julia Oliver about this today:
N.C. groups finance local tax fights
Watchdog organizations say real estate interests trying to project grass-roots efforts

Total contributions to these Astroturf groups exceed $600,000 to date. (Editorial note, the CO chart for Harnett County should read $44,425.03 from state level NC Realtors and NC Homebuilders associations).

No local group has raised more money than the Union County Coalition Against the Transfer Tax. Of the $85,000 the group raised in the last month, about $50,000 came from the two state associations. The rest came from local realty companies and groups, including $20,000 from the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association.

Other numbers of interest:
$48,424.50 Moore County Coalition for Good Government
$65,486.72 Henderson County Coalition to Protect Home Equity
$61,335.99 Chatham County Coalition for Homeownership

 
Stop The NC Home Ticks

Money to burn

I sure hope this leads to a statewide backlash against 6%. Has that ever been challenged in court as price-fixing?

6% +

It continues to be watched by DOJ, FTC and state attorney's general. The 6% is a manifestation of a web of controls that seem legit when looked at individually but collectively have the effect of a monopoly. From kick-backs signing bonuses to requiring membership for MLS access to charging member firms for non-members, having newly licensed brokers dependent on member firms in "provisional status" and pressuring employees to make PAC contributions it's a well integrated machine.

  • USDOJ/Antitrust: Competition Policy and the Real Estate Industry
  • USDOJ/FTC Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry, April 2007
  • FTC Real Estate Competition
  • AEI/Brookings: Bringing More Competition To Real Estate Brokerage
  • Nine Pillars of the Citadel
  • Open MLS
  • 10 Things Your Broker Won't Tell You
  • Real Estate Ripoff
  • Also I've begun thinking about patterns of sales and growth. If a new person comes to town and buys a new home, it's one sale for a builder and one sale for realtors. If a new person comes to town and buys an existing home from someone who buys a new home, it's one sale for a builder and two sales for realtors.

    I guess that's an argument for impact fees. I just wonder if out of towners are steered to existing homes. I'd be interested to know the stats of first deed transfers.

    Looks like we might want to see some legislation

    introduced by a progressive representative in Raleigh to push back against the Tick Lobby. Do we have any progressive representatives in Raleigh?

    Thanks for this great listing of resources.

    Legislation

    Do we have any progressive representatives in Raleigh?

    The answer to that will run several blog posts.

    As much as I hate the money NCAR is pouring into the transfer tax issue I'm loving the fact that they have been draining their pond and making enemies in state and local government. Next session will be a good opportunity for positive change.

    Another issue I see is the real estate broker who is also a mortgage broker. Seems to be an area ripe for abuse that could use some oversight.

    Already here

    That has happened in NC, not with realtors, but in a shady side of the refi market.

    Macon

    According to Jason Schrader of the Asheville Citizen Times, Macon County voters have been getting robo-calls from Freedomworks, another group with connections to Art Pope.

    Freedomworks

    as long as you're rich and straight.

    Isn't Freedomworks run by Dick Armey?

    ex-Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) that is.
    Too many republican dicks if you ask me.
    Freedomworks also shoved hundreds of fliers under peoples windshield wipers here last year during the local football games, claiming Larry Kissell was going to raise taxes. I don't think many people saw those fliers though.. I remember one night where all those fliers "disappeared" half an hour later and were replaced with "vote for Kissell" fliers.. dang vandals ;-)

    Astroturf Update 11/2

    Charlotte Observer editorial this morning:
    Transfer tax campaign: Will torrent of outside money obscure local interests?

    In most counties, those state associations are providing the majority of the money for the anti-tax campaign, with local Realtor and homebuilding groups supplying the rest.
    ...transfer tax would hold down, if not prevent, increases in the property tax. Outside interests don't have to weigh those alternatives.
    ...if the transfer tax is defeated, don't expect them to be worrying about how local governments will fund local needs.

    I'll try

    I'll take a look. Some of the rhetoric goes round in logic circles. It's getting close to Tuesday. I noticed a steady trickle of early voters at county BOEs. Don't know what that means for candidates and issues but glad to see it.

    Support Transfer Tax

    thanks Greg

    you are very often the "voice of reason"!

    No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

    Progressive Discussions

    Got my fourth 8.5x11 piece of bully mail

    yesterday. It was Halloween "scary masks" themed. Fear monger much?

    I hear Donald Byrd, the treasurer of the Johnston Astroturfers against the transfer tax group showed up at the last Johnston Dem Exec Committee meeting to argue against the transfer tax. Seems he's a precinct vice chair in Johnston. I hear there was darn near a yelling match that night. In a room full of Democrats he and one other guy (tied to the homebuilders) were on one side -- anti-TT, and every body else was on the other side -- pro-TT.

    It really pisses me off that $75,000 from people who could not care less about Johnston County have the power to sway an election like this.

    "They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

    Flipping the Byrd

    Donald Byrd may be listed as the Treasurer but he did not sign the Disclosure Report. I have a copy of the report and there is no signature on it. The "Johnston County Property Owners Against Transfer Taxes" are not in compliance.

    Oooo. Now THAT is ververy interesting.

    Though I can't say that I'm surprised. I've been here for ten years and my parents have lived here for 25 years. From what I've witnessed, it seems to this common citizen that power brokers in Johnston County pretty much operate with impunity. It seems to be a deeply ingrained cultural thing, rather than a political party thing. The rules, you see, are for the little people. They are not actually supposed to apply to the very wealthy or to those in power. Not every one behaves that way, but those who do, do so relatively blatantly.

    Case in point ... I had a neighbor who was being recruited to run for School Board. The School Board is supposedly a non-partisan county entity. I know for a fact that the D party here keeps hands-off as a matter of policy. This recruiting was being done on an R by the R party. I don't know who the Rs thought they were talking to, but my neighbor was no political newcomer. My neighbor's career had offered them a pretty good look into politics; the good, the bad and the ugly on both sides of the aisle.

    As my neighbor related the story to me, one fine afternoon while big whig Rs sat around the living room recruiting this potential candidate like there was no tomorrow, the potential candidate asked the pertinent question any intelligent, interested person might ask in such a situation;

    Will I be able to operate independently -- you know, make up my own mind about issues and how I'm going to vote or what I want to support or changes I'd like to see.

    Warm fuzzies immediately flew out the window like ash up a chimney flue.

    Well, we can talk about that later.

    Further questions drew out the truth and the potential candidate congenially but firmly saw the visitors to the door, utterly disgusted with what had been said.

    I used an R example but Ds around here used to operate like that when they held the power. In one town it took the D party calling out the D controlled town council on illegal private meetings used to form policy and get votes lined up.

    Just shows to go you -- Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The only cure is to have boards, commissions & councils that are not under one-party control for decades.

    "They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

    Byrd

    He either never saw the report or got it in the mail and filed it without looking at it. The reports for these groups were apparently prepared by NCAR and distributed locally.

    So, even though all the work had been done

    and this was just a simple PAC-in-a-box operation, it still wasn't done correctly. That's rather sad.

    Or is the problem that there's no real evidence that Don Byrd is aware that he is the Treasurer of this group?

    ---------------
    I have to fly out the door ... helping hang an art show out at mom's place today. :)

    "They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

    PAC in a box

    Good one.

    I was there.

    At one point, someone against TT stated that the solution was to start charging parents a per seat tax for their children.

    I didn't say it, but I wanted to ask him why we shouldn't just keep em all home and not educate any of them. That would take care of it.

    ....and living in a county where there are no more sewer hookups

    available (Union).......just tell them they can now pay per flush. :) This problem is coming to a community near you.

    Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



    ***************************
    Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

    Why stop there?

    I can't decide between a conception tax or a birth tax. Maybe a tax on ultrasound services could clear this financial mess up. [/snark]

    Great work!

    Keep up the great work exposing these scumbags, Greg. Counties need these revenues to help build schools! And who benefits from good schools? Realtors and developers? Ask any realtor, and they will tell you that one of the top selling points is schools, schools, schools! The realtors and home builders screwed up by not working with the General Assembly to require counties to spend the proceeds on schools and water and sewer service and roads - the things that benefit the realtors' and builders' industry. What a bunch of morons!

    I found this interesting survey on N.C. politics that might be of interest. Wonder how many folks can correctly answer question No. 8? :)

    link

    Outside money in Johnston's TT referendum

    makes it to the N&O's print pages, [h/t Sarah A.] and they put put the numbers into the narrative of JoCo's struggle to handle our busting at the seams growth. Here's a few paragraphs from the article. It includes quotes from JoCo's Superintendent of Schools and my district's County Commissioner, Allen Mims (one of our more sensible Commissioners);

    Consistently among the fastest-growing counties in the state, Johnston County faces many challenges keeping up with its population. Its jail is full, its courtrooms overcrowded. Commissioners estimate upgrades will cost about $45 million. And more than 4,000 of the district's students are in about 200 mobile unit classrooms. School construction needs are expected to be $160 million over the next five years.
    We're not getting ahead of the growth,

    schools Superintendent Anthony Parker said.

    We're falling further behind. We can build them faster, but we've got to have the money.

    Still, Johnston County commissioners have done little to try to convince voters the new taxes are needed.

    I just want to hear what the citizens say,

    Mims said.

    What it'll tell me is if they don't want either of these tools, it's all right for me to increase property taxes if that's what I need to do to pay for the services as we grow.

    Other commissioners, including Wade Stewart and Cookie Pope, have said they probably wouldn't approve either new tax if voters give them the green light.

    I guess that means Wade and Cookie have decided that raising property taxes is the way to go. Those two usually play the part of the Johnston R party sock puppets.

    "They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

    Pender County Update

    This just in from Topsail Island Association of REALTORS:

    Leadership from NCAR tells me that of all 16 counties facing this issue next Tuesday, Pender County is the one most in Doubt.
    -----
    As President of your Association I am personally embarrassed that the work load for this campaign has been carried on the shoulders of so few of our local REALTORS.
    -----
    We have a fresh supply of several hundred signs at the Board office.
    -----
    We have 4 volunteers to canvas neighborhoods and go door to door on Monday talking to undecided voters.
    -----
    We've identified about 6 precincts that will have the most impact on this
    election and would like to have folks there with signs and brochures for
    one last pitch to voters as they go in to vote.

    Maybe

    the Pender Realtors know this whole campaign is a bunch of crap. Maybe they know Realtors account for 6% while the "home tax" is .4% and the whole line of crud coming from their "association" just doesn't fly.

    Unreal Estate

    On Topsail they could sell a shack for $500,000 because the land is so valuable. Here's one that's on the market now for $499,999:

    Most new houses start at $899,999 and go up to $2 million, many of them like the one that went up in flames at Ocean Isle.

    Meanwhile on the other side of Pender County there are people living in shacks barely worth $50,000.

    Check my math

    The Realtor take on a property like this is $ 29,999.94. ($499,999 x 0.06) That's real money in a county where the

    Estimated median household income in 2005 [was] $37,318.

    The Transfer Tax on a property like this is $ 1,999.99. ($499,999 x 0.004)

    Oh, yeah. I can see why the Home Ticks are whining. That 0.4% Tax is SO unfair. [/snark]

    "They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

    Yield Spread Premium

    Among other fees and points at closing a Yield Spread Premium is a hidden closing cost that dwarfs any transfer tax.

    That's the next arcane thing you'll see me writing about. YSP is what mortgage brokers get for talking you into loan that looks good at closing but costs you more in the long run.

    Luckily Brad Miller is doing something to correct that. Mortgage brokers are up in arms that the secret is out.

    Swain, Graham, Macon, Rutherford, Henderson

    Jason Schrader has an article in the Asheville Citizen Times:

    Realtors and home builders from across the state have given more than $100,000 to defeat five WNC counties’ attempts to raise taxes.
    -----
    If money and effort decide the outcome of the elections, the tax increase has little chance in some Western North Carolina counties.
    -----
    Then again, the campaign could backfire.

    More from Moore County

    Remember I said Moore Co. residents had received an excellent informational brochure that appeared to be produced by the county?

    Well, apparently, it was produced by the county, and complaints have been filed with the BOE about it by a "state" group.

    From The Pilot:

    Also during worksession, the issue of a flier produced by the county about the land transfer tax that will be on the ballot Nov. 6 was raised.

    Meanwhile, a state group has challenged the legality of the county using public funds to produce the piece, arguing that it amounts to promoting the tax, which is against state law.

    A formal complaint was lodged with the county elections board Thursday.

    For what it's worth, the flier does not "promote" the tax. It simply tells the truth.


    Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

    Isn't that ironic

    That the Ticks can't tell the difference between "promotion" and "telling the truth." Well maybe not ironic - more like perfectly predictable.

    Collateral damage

    They did such a good job rattling the cages of anti-tax zealots that the sales tax increases they supported were defeated in those counties where both transfer tax and sales tax were on the ballot. (Davie, Graham, Harnett, Johnston, Rutherford). Now what are they going do?