Realtors Spend Big On Costa Campaign
$270,000 investment in congressional race buys television, radio ads.
WASHINGTON -- Some deep pockets are opening up for the
increasingly contentious San Joaquin Valley congressional
race, with a Realtors group contributing more than $270,000
to Democratic candidate Jim Costa's campaign.
The National Association of Realtors has spent the money on
television and radio ads, publicly available records show.
A longtime legislative ally of the Realtors, Costa is
competing against fellow Democrat Lisa Quigley in the 20th
"We're certainly doing our best to see Senator Costa wins,"
Steve Cook, vice president of the National Association of
Realtors, said Tuesday.
The Realtors' radio ad began running on Fresno and
Bakersfield stations Thursday, and the television ad will
begin next week. Direct mail pieces also will be sent, and
Cook said the organization will rally the Valley's
individual Realtors with pro-Costa messages.
The Realtors' independent expenditure, so-called because it
was made without being explicitly coordinated with the
Costa camp, is an unusually large one for the region and
throws a new wrinkle into the March 2 Democratic
"We were advised a couple of days ago that they were going
to do something, but weren't told details," Bob Sanders, a
spokesman for the Costa campaign, said Tuesday when told of
the Realtors' efforts. "We're pleased that people are
supporting the campaign."
Quigley, though, characterized the spending as the kind of
special-interest maneuvering that she's sought to associate
with her opponent. Quigley's research team unearthed the
latest spending numbers, which are publicly available
through individual television and radio stations, and she
called them to the attention of The Bee. A spot check
confirmed their accuracy.
"One special interest is trying to buy a member of
Congress," Quigley said. "This amount of money is so
immense, it exceeds his entire media budget. In a market
like this, it's just extraordinary."
This isn't the first time independent expenditures have
colored local congressional races. Two years ago, for
instance, a conservative Washington-based interest group
called the Club for Growth ran a controversial 15-second ad
supporting the congressional bid of former Fresno Mayor Jim
Patterson. Likewise, the Washington-based Hispanic Business
Roundtable ran ads in 2000 attacking Fresno-area Democrat
But in simple dollar terms, the Realtors' latest spending
marks an extraordinary infusion into a race where the
candidates so far appear to be roughly neck and neck. A
former state senator, Costa reported raising $333,075 last
year. Quigley, formerly chief of staff to Dooley, reported
Funded through the National Association of Realtors'
Political Action Committee, the local Realtors' spending
totaled $270,760 for time on eight television stations and
nine radio stations. This does not count additional money
being spent on mailers. Cook described the spending as
"moderate" compared with other campaigns by the Realtors'
PAC, which is one of the nation's largest.
Costa's relationship with the real estate industry dates
back to his years in the state Legislature. There, he
carried controversial legislation to weaken rent control
laws in cities such as Berkeley and Santa Monica. The
legislation, which became law in 1996, eventually allowed
landlords to set rates at whatever the market will bear
once a tenant vacates a unit.
The bill represented "an 11-year effort to try to end
extreme forms of rent control in California," Costa said at
the time. He further contended that strict rent control
curtailed construction of new rental housing because owners
no longer consider it a profitable investment. More
generally, Cook said Costa was always a strong supporter of
the real estate industry while in the state Senate.
"I called the Realtors early in the campaign ... and they
told me that Costa had always done everything they ever
asked, so they didn't need to meet with me because they
were going to be with him," Quigley said.
"I didn't know at the time what that really meant, but boy,
they were serious."
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