Leaked Documents Show National Realtors Association May be Funding Anti-PACE Campaigns in Tulare County, Among Others
After receiving a reader tip in May alleging the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) and the Bakersfield Association of Realtors (B.A.R) have subjected Bakersfield, California, among other localities, to an intense anti-PACE campaign, Checks and Balances Project began reporting on this coordinated attack on Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.
And based on another reader tip, Checks and Balances Project has learned the national Realtor lobby is now bringing its misinformation campaign to residents and elected officials in Visalia, California, ahead of an official request to determine the future of PACE for area homeowners.
Expanded by the Tulare Board of Supervisors a few weeks ago, the residential PACE program enables local homeowners to make energy efficient improvements to their homes.
But the Realtors are currently mobilizing throughout cities and counties in California to deliberately proliferate, disseminate and promote anti-PACE talking points. One of the point people for this anti-PACE campaign appears to be Bakersfield Association of Realtors‘ Government Affairs Director Kim Schaefer. Tulare Realtors were spotted at a PACE hearing in Bakersfield.
Is Ms. Schaefer working with the Tulare County Association of Realtors?
Ms. Schaefer and her local association may claim an early victory for Kern County’s and Bakersfield’s decisions to eliminate PACE. However, she and her association have created a potential legal morass because of her claims to have met privately with local elected officials well ahead of any votes and obtain promises from them to kill the PACE program if they receive “political cover.”
You can read her entire statement here from a grant application to the National Association of Realtors (N.A.R.):
A recent Los Angeles Times story includes a response from Ms. Schaefer about her off-the-record meetings with elected officials in Kern County and Bakersfield. According to the Times’ story, “The elected officials, she said, did not commit their votes and the wording in the grant application was only her ‘analysis based on positive conversations.’”
But the language in the internal document suggests a much stronger quid pro quo, one that Karl Olson, a leading California public records attorney who Checks and Balances Project has retained, describes as the “smoking gun” in a Brown Act violation.
The Brown Act is a California state open meetings law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies and makes illegal the type of collusion that may have occurred between Kern County supervisors, Bakersfield city councilmembers and Realtor lobbyists.
After their recent votes to eliminate PACE, Checks and Balances demanded answers to possible illegal contacts between the Realtor’s lobby and Kern County and Bakersfield elected officials via a “cure and correct” letter, which also demands both bodies formally and explicitly withdraw from any commitments they made to the Bakersfield Association of Realtors and disclose why individual supervisors and councilmembers voted to terminate PACE.
“10s of thousands” coming to Visalia
With the legal morass she’s created for public officials in Kern County, the question is: what are Tulare Realtors doing in Bakersfield?
Are they learning from the example Ms. Schaefer set in Kern County and Bakersfield?
Checks and Balances has learned that Ms. Schaefer has local allies in this anti-PACE crusade, including Mark Avedian, former President of the Tulare County Realtors Association and former Regional Chair of the California Association of Realtors.
In a Facebook post obtained from a concerned reader, Mr. Avedian brags about the “10s of thousands” of “funding” he’s receiving to provide “subtle” pressure to Tulare and Visalia elected officials.
You can read his entire post here:
Based on the grant application to the National Association of Realtors (N.A.R.), where Ms. Schaefer asks for money to help provide “political cover” for local Bakersfield officials, one has to ask: did Mr. Avedian also receive financial resources from the national Realtor lobby to kill PACE?
And: how successful have his attempts to “educate” public officials been?
While the only way to counter the Realtors’ disinformation campaign is by shining a light on it, we can only hope that Ms. Schaefer, Mr. Avedian and their allies in Visalia have not used national special interest money to engage local lawmakers the same way she asserts to have done in Kern County and Bakersfield.
Given what we already know about the Realtor lobby’s efforts to subvert the political and regulatory process, we’re asking concerned readers to please email any tips related to this issue to [email protected].
We protect all sources.
Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.
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