National real estate agents are spending big money for Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah - which makes Hansen thankful and has Democrat Gunn McKay's campaign charging that Hansen is becoming captive to the agents' special interests.
The National Realtors Political Action Committee is spending $117,958.33 on television and radio ads supporting Hansen's campaign, said Pat Iannone, executive vice president of the Utah Association of Realtors.To show how much impact that could have, it is one-fifth of Hansen's total campaign budget of roughly $550,000. And it is more than a fourth of the $400,000-or-so budget of Democratic candidate Gunn McKay.
Iannone said $102,000 of the political action committee money will go to television ads, and the rest to radio. The ads - which say Hansen helps Americans achieve the dream of owning a home - started Sept. 19 and are scheduled to run through Oct. 2. Many are airing during the Olympics coverage.
The ads are "independent expenditures," meaning they are produced by the real estate agents without any consent, request or suggestion by Hansen's campaign. Such expenditures have no spending limit under federal law.
In contrast, groups that donate directly to a congressional campaign may by law give no more than $10,000 per election cycle - $5,000 for any primary election campaign and $5,000 for the final election.
The National Realtors political-action committee has also given Hansen's campaign the maximum allowable in direct contributions, said Hansen's campaign manager, Peter Jenks.
Iannone said the national political-action committee is giving similar support to six other congressmen in the nation. She said the committee decided to give such support based on congressmen's support for topics important to real estate agents, their chance of winning and their support from local real estate agents.
"Realtors in the 1st District support Hansen by a 5-1 margin," she said. Hansen was a developer before he went to Congress but is not a real estate agent himself.
Jenks said Hansen "certainly is appreciative of the ads. We didn't know about them until we saw them on TV, and obviously were happy with them."
But David Dixon, press secretary for McKay, said, "We are concerned about an outside interest spending so much in the campaign. $102,000 in two weeks for TV ads is a lot of dough. What does it say about the allegiance of Hansen to realtors in the future? We are concerned about that."
Dixon blames the ads for a recent drop by McKay in the polls. A Salt Lake Tribune poll released Sunday shows Hansen leading McKay by 10 points - the same margin shown in an earlier Deseret News/KSL poll by Dan Jones & Associates.
Dixon had complained earlier that the Deseret News poll was inaccurate, saying, "A number of other polls have this an even race. Only Jones, who received $5,000 (in personal polling fees) from Hansen comes up with different figures."
But now he says the poor showing in polls may result because "they've bought 1,000 ratings points during the Olympics, and that helps Hansen's name recognition." McKay has not had any ads on TV, but Dixon said they are planned closer to the election.
Dixon said he believes the race is still close and may be won by McKay when he gets his message out. But Jenks said this is the third race between McKay and Hansen, and residents know them both well. "Residents have said twice - although by small margins - that they don't want McKay. I think they are getting tired of him, and that is starting to show in the polls."