The New WRA Advocacy Fund

New association advocacy tool introduced.


 Joe Murray  |    September 07, 2017
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For more than 40 years, Wisconsin campaign finance laws remained largely the same. Contribution limits to candidates never changed, independent spending by third parties was employed by only a small group of organizations that had enough money to fund them, and corporate contributions of any kind were illegal. 

Under these longtime regulations and laws, the WRA realized substantial success. As a politically active association with a culture of member participation in the political process up and down the ballot, we were in a good position to succeed. With 15,000 members, a large political action committee, and an issues fund that helps us speak to the public on issues we care about, the WRA grew into one of the most politically potent organizations in Wisconsin.

But change was inevitable. In February 2016, the Wisconsin Legislature passed sweeping changes to Wisconsin campaign finance laws by doubling contribution limits and allowing corporate funds to be used for political purposes for the first time in over 100 years. These changes shifted the political landscape in several ways, bringing some new players into the process, strengthening certain organizations and reducing the influence of others. The WRA needed a response to maintain our effectiveness.

As a result of these dramatic changes, the WRA board of directors in May approved the first dues increase in six years to create a new WRA advocacy fund to maintain and enhance our ability to achieve the kind of legislative and regulatory success we have enjoyed over the years. Here are the key elements of the new program.

Funding

After carefully considering several options, the WRA board decided to pay for the new advocacy fund through a $35 dues increase that applies to all members and affiliates, starting with the 2018 dues billing this fall. The board ultimately supported this across-the-board dues increase for two significant reasons: First, the dues increase will provide a stable funding source now and into the future, and second, all members benefit from our advocacy success, so all members should contribute.

How will the new advocacy fund be used?

The new advocacy fund will provide the WRA and local boards with additional financial resources to support candidates who champion our issues. The advocacy fund is very flexible and can be used to meet the new corporate fundraising needs; independent expenditures for candidates who support our issues; education and engagement of the public about local issues and referendums; and/or financial support to candidates who support homeowners, property owners and REALTOR¬ģ issues.

How is the new advocacy fund different from RPAC and the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance (WHA)?

The REALTORS¬ģ Political Action Committee (RPAC) raises funds through voluntary contributions from members to directly support candidates who support our issues. The WHA is strictly an issues fund, designed to educate the public on homeowner and property rights issues, that can‚Äôt legally be used to make contributions directly to candidates who support our issues. The new advocacy fund can be used to fund independent expenditures for candidates, provide contributions to corporate accounts under the new campaign finance laws, fund campaigns engaging in local referendums, and provide financial support for candidates who support the WRA agenda. In short, the new advocacy fund is the most flexible tool in our advocacy toolbox. The advocacy fund allows the WRA to respond to the additional demands created by the new campaign finance laws that allow for corporate contributions and greatly increases contribution levels to state and local candidates. The new advocacy fund will help the WRA maintain its status as one of the top legislative and politically effective organizations in Wisconsin.

Will the WRA continue to raise money for RPAC and Direct Giver?

Yes. RPAC and the Direct Giver program are the primary vehicles we use to financially support candidates at all levels. RPAC and Direct Giver are the cornerstones of our contributions directly to candidates, and the new laws do not change this. The new laws have simply increased our needs, and the new advocacy fund is our way of addressing these demands.

The new WRA advocacy fund is intended to maintain and strengthen the effectiveness of the WRA to protect Wisconsin property owners and Wisconsin REALTORS¬ģ. Please feel free to contact Joe Murray at the WRA with any questions or comments.

Learn more

The WRA created an advocacy fund Q&A sheet and a video so you can better understand the details of this new initiative:

Joe Murray is Director of Political and Governmental Affairs for the WRA.
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