B.F. O’Neal Jr. was the 1960 president of the Northwest Louisiana Association of REALTORS and a pioneer of the state’s Republican Party.
He was also a member of the Council for National Policy (CNP), the secretive network of powerful conservatives using money and politics to impose its conservative agenda. It has multiple white nationalists on its board of governors.
In the 2012 presidential election, the real estate industry donated almost three times as much to Mitt Romney ($16.6M) as it did to Barrack Obama ($6.5M).
Aras Agalarov is the Russian real-estate developer who helped arrange the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. He paid $20 million to Trump to host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow and worked on the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Ben Carson is the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Carson America PAC paid Cambridge Analytica $438,065 in 2015-2016.
Last November, a Connecticut Association of Realtors’ PAC paid Cambridge Analytica 2.0 (CloudCommerce/Data Propria) $545,000 to get Republican Bob Stefanowski in the governor’s office. He lost.
But not before it came out that he’d previously been the chairman and managing partner of a London private equity firm that owned a children’s residential home involved in sex-trafficking. It also had partial ownership in Quintiles Transnational Corp., a contract-research organization that outsources clinical trials for Big Pharma. In one of those trials in India, 22 people — mostly poor and illiterate — died.
For the last two decades, the NAR has paid at least $545 million to lobby for the real estate industry. It spent $72.8 million on 31 lobbyists in 2018. During that time, it gave a total of $203,760 to Devin Nunes, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Bernie Sanders and Dana Rohrabacher.
The NAR is the largest trade organization in America with 1.3 million members.
Rohrabacher was supported by the NAR in California for years. But when he claimed home sellers should not be forced to sell to gay people, he lost the support of the NAR’s President’s Circle (RPAC). However, the NAR PAC gave Rohrabacher $5,000 last year.
The NAR is one of 17 real estate trade organizations that’s affiliated with the Real Estate Roundtable, a group working to set national real estate policy. Since 2008, its donated $2,500 to Ted Cruz, $8,500 to Devin Nunes, $15,000 to Mitch McConnell, $27,000 to Jeb Hensarling and $32,500 to Ryan.
Ryan played a significant role in the passage of the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Part of the legislation allows for investors who use a pass-through company (shell) to exclude up to 20% of profits before paying income tax. More than one-third of all income generated by pass-through entities comes from real estate-related businesses. The average real-estate development firm pays 1.1% in income taxes.
There were 44 Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate who worked specifically on the tax bill. Last July, it was revealed that 13 of the Republicans — including Ryan — had between $36 million to $163 million in ownership stakes of 40 real estate or property-related entities. Those same investments were worth less than $16 million before the law was passed.
Realtors and their brokerages have also been using the Votesane PAC as a conduit for their political contributions. Votesane provides donors a list of candidates to choose from and the money then goes to those candidates. Since the PAC itself doesn’t decide which politician gets the money, it’s not restricted in how much money it can donate.
Re/Max, Keller Williams and Berkshire Hathaway used the PAC to give almost $1 million in donations in 2018. Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeServices of America is now the largest real estate company in the U.S.
Votesane gave McConnell $81,000 in 2014 and Dana Rohrabacher $700 in 2018. Since 2010, it’s given nearly $6.5 million to Republicans and almost $4.6 million to Democrats. It donates mainly to moderates who are in position to influence finance and real estate legislation.
It’s run by numerous real estate industry lobbyists. In 2018, it gave $43,911 to 23 different members of the House Financial Services Committee. The committee “oversees all components of the nation’s housing and financial services sectors including banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing, and securities.”
Last October, the NAR hired Shannon McGahn as its vice president of governmental affairs. She’s now in charge of its Federal Legislative and Political Affairs and Political Representative teams. She’s also married to Don McGahn, a former FEC chairman and Trump White House attorney.
Both McGahns worked for Tom DeLay. In the 1990s and 2000s, Don represented DeLay against investigations into his various fundraising scams. He was later indicted for money laundering but the conviction was later overturned. McGahn also defended DeLay against accusations that he used the U.S. Family Network to accept $1 million from Russian “oil executives.”
Shannon was DeLay’s communications director from 2003–2006. After DeLay resigned from Congress, he started First Principles LLC, a political consulting firm. Shannon worked there from 2006–2009.
She formerly worked as a Counselor to Steve Mnuchin in the U.S. Treasury Dept. and advised him on legislative and public affairs. She was one of his earliest hires and helped recruit his political staff.
She worked for Hensarling (R-TX) and the House Financial Services Committee for years. As committee chairman, Hensarling worked to undo Dodd-Frank Act regulations, eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, severely weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s power, overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program and do away with the Export-Import Bank.
He’d found his way to the position through his previous work with his mentor, Phil Gramm (R-TX). He was Gramm’s TX State Director from 1985-1989 and managed his 1992 re-election campaign. The two men are strong free market evangelists who see any outside regulation on the financial markets as unnecessary and burdensome.
Gramm was a major force in deregulating the financial industry and worked to block any legislation attempting to regulate predatory lending or that which “restricted the rise and reach of financial conglomerates.” From 1990–2000, he received nearly $700,000 in campaign contributions from commercial banks.
He’s also believed by some to be the cause of the 2008 housing market crash.
“He was the architect, advocate and the most knowledgeable person in Congress on these topics. To me, Phil Gramm is the single most important reason for the current financial crisis,” said Michael D. Donovan, a former S.E.C. lawyer.
He wrote most of the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (a.k.a the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999). It opened the doors to the “Too Big to Fail” banking entities who used the law as an invitation to sell higher leveraged, riskier financial products, like credit default swaps.
The law repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act by removing regulations that prohibited any one banking, securities or insurance company from acting like a combination of all three. It also divided oversight of conglomerates among government agencies so no single agency would have authority over an entire company.
Gramm worked with President Bill Clinton and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to get the legislation signed into law on November 12, 1999.
In 2002, Gramm left the Senate to become an investment banker and lobbyist for UBS. From 2005–2006, he was registered to lobby Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Dept. At the time, UBS was making hundred$ of million$ off of credit-default swaps.
By 2009, UBS declared nearly $50 billion in credit losses and write-downs. It was eventually bailed out with $60 billion from the Swiss government. It later admitted to hiding $20 billion. Stefanowski was the CFO of UBS from 2012-2013.
Karl Rove ran Gramm’s successful campaigns for the 1982 U.S. House and 1984 U.S. Senate. Prior to Gramm, Rove had advised George W. Bush in his unsuccessful 1978 Texas congressional campaign. In 1977, Rove was hired by George H.W. Bush for his unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign.
He later worked on W. Bush’s presidential campaigns with Ed Gillespie, who was the Counselor to Bush from 2007–2009. From 2001–2014, the NAR paid his lobbying firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, more than $5 million on various housing and mortgage issues.
In 2001, Bush signed the USA Patriot Act in response to the 9/11 attacks.
Tucked into that bill was a carve-out for the real estate industry that allowed for foreign investments in U.S. real estate. Title III of the Patriot Act, the International Money Laundering Abatement and Anti-terrorist Financing Act, states that if a bank found suspicious money transferred from abroad, it’s required to report the transfer to the government. If it doesn’t, the bank could face criminal charges and fines.
Lobbyists for the NAR were able to convince Congress to grant the industry a temporary exemption from the new law. This meant foreigners could continue to use shell companies to buy U.S. properties.
A year later, a Treasury Dept. report agreed with the decision and found that “Regulatory requirements may have the unintended economic effect of limiting access to such asset management vehicles. At this time, no additional recommendations regarding anti-money laundering controls for personal holding companies are being made.”
From 2010–2014, Russians laundered at least $20-$80 billion with 26,746 payments through 21 shell companies in 96 countries. The U.S. processed $63 million of those funds through Citibank ($37M), Bank of America ($14M), JP Morgan and Wells Fargo.
Most recently, the Troika Laundromat was found to have laundered almost $5 billion through transactions with banks like Citigroup and Deutsche. At least $889 million in laundered money is alleged to have passed through Deutsche Bank AG accounts since 2003.
By 2015, almost half of U.S. homes worth at least $5 million were bought using shell companies. FinCEN reported there were six metropolitan areas where foreigners were investing the most in high-end real estate: all boroughs of New York City; Miami-Dade County and the two counties immediately north (Broward and Palm Beach); Los Angeles County; three counties comprising part of the San Francisco area (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties); San Diego County; and San Antonio, TX.
In 2017, Deutsche Bank paid a $425 million fine for its Moscow office illegally moving $10 billion out of Russia. It was later fined $41 million by the U.S. Federal Reserve for not having an “effective program to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering laws.”
Deutsche has provided “well over” $2 billion in loans to Trump.
From 2016–2018, House Democrats pushed Hensarling to subpoena Deutsche for documents on its loans to Trump. He never did. In 2016, he was one of a number of U.S. officials Russia’s VTB bank lobbied for doing away with U.S. sanctions on Russian businesses and oligarchs.
The real estate industry gave Trump almost $930,000 last year. It gave him $4.65 million the year before.
On the first day Trump got into office, he issued an administrative order to reverse Obama’s decision to reduce FHA mortgage insurance. It was estimated up to 40,000 homebuyers would not get a mortgage because of the order.
Trump and the GOP want Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac completely privatized. John Paulson, a Trump friend, donor, and member of his economic advisory council, has significant investments in Fannie and Freddie.
As of May 2016, Trump had $3 million to $15 million invested in Paulson’s hedge funds. In 2012, the Trump Organization bought the Doral Resort & Spa from a group of investors led by Paulson & Co. Trump was given $125 million in loans from Deutsche to buy and renovate the resort.
In 2016, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would get done “reasonably fast.” Their shares went up by 40%.
Mnuchin and Paulson have partnered together before.
In 2009, Mnuchin, along with George Soros, J. Christopher Flowers, Michael S. Dell and Paulson formed IMB Management Holdings. It bought IndyMac (now OneWest), a California-based retail bank that was under water with nearly $200 billion in unpaid mortgages.
During the time Mnuchin ran OneWest, it developed a reputation as a “Foreclosure Machine.” It used robo-signing for thousands of loan documents and ultimately paid $8.5 million in the 2013 multi-bank “robbo-signing” settlements.
The same year Paulson closed on his deal with Mnuchin and OneWest, he also—along with a group of investors including Russia’s VEB bank—made a deal with Oleg Deripaska to purchase “large stakes” in Rusal ahead of its Hong Kong IPO. Rusal was removed from the U.S Sanctions List in January. Deripaska remains on the list and is currently suing Mnuchin and Treasury for his removal.
Last October, the U.S. froze Deripaska’s homes in D.C. and NY City. A shell company related to Deripaska paid $15 million in cash for the 23,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom D.C. mansion. Kellyanne Conway, a “nationalist” and CNP member, lives next door.