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As rising mortgage rates and fierce competition for homebuyers helped mortgage brokers grow their market share in 2022, they also worked behind the scenes to grow their influence with politicians and policymakers by boosting spending on lobbying and political campaigns.
The Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), a trade group representing mortgage brokers that claims more than 65,000 members, more than doubled its spending on federal lobbying in 2022.
AIME also launched a political action committee (PAC) in July that’s raised more than $350,000 from executives at lenders including United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), which surpassed Rocket Mortgage this year as the nation’s largest provider of home loans.
So far, AIME’s Broker Action Coalition Political Action Committee (BACPAC) hasn’t doled out much of the money that it’s raised, making just $25,000 in contributions to date.
But AIME spent $170,000 on lobbying in Washington, D.C. during the first nine months of 2022, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.org. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $96.9 million in spending by the real estate industry as a whole during the same period, but represents a 112 percent increase from the $80,000 AIME spent lobbying in all of 2021.
A win in Florida with an eye on other states
As the year drew to a close, AIME and UWM took credit for “a huge victory for independent mortgage brokers” — rule changes allowing mortgage brokers in Florida to offer access to a state-run down payment assistance program, the Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program.
The Hometown Heroes program — which provides up to $25,000 in down payment assistance to teachers, healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters and other “frontline community workers” — was initially unavailable through third-party loan originators like mortgage brokers.
But an AIME spokesperson told Inman via email that the program has been amended to allow participation by mortgage brokers “due to joint efforts between AIME and UWM” — including a letter-writing campaign and a meeting with an official at Florida Housing Finance Corp., which administers the state’s Hometown Heroes program.
“Our joint advocacy efforts included both organization’s Leadership meeting with the FHFC’s Director of Homeownership Programs, David Westcott, and our grassroots advocacy actions through the Broker Action Coalition, where brokers in Florida sent hundreds of letters to state legislators,” the AIME spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the Florida Housing Finance Corp. did not immediately respond to a request from Inman for comment.
Brendan McKay, owner of McKay Mortgage and president of advocacy at AIME, says the group is eager to make the same argument in other states where mortgage brokers are currently excluded from such programs.
“For too long independent mortgage brokers have been unable to offer consumers state-funded down payment assistance programs,” McKay said in a statement. “Previously, homebuyers leveraging Hometown Heroes could not also take advantage of the savings mortgage brokers are able to offer, and AIME is excited that this is no longer the case, and we look forward to working with other states to make this same adjustment.”
UWM CEO Mat Ishbia called Hometown Heroes “a winning program. Brokers and borrowers nationwide should care about this because it could be coming to your state soon. And it shows that UWM and AIME together are always willing to go to bat for the mortgage broker community.”
Looking to overtake a rival in influence
Having ramped up its lobbying and campaign fundraising efforts, AIME looks determined to surpass a rival trade group, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB), in influence.
NAMB’s lobbying budget peaked in 2009 at $2.4 million, in what turned out to be a mostly futile effort to head off tighter regulations aimed at mortgage brokers in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage lending bust, according to records maintained by OpenSecrets.
NAMB’s political action committee, NAMBPAC, raised a total of $78,107 during the most recent two-year election cycle. It spent $17,500 over the same period, from Jan. 1, 2021, through Nov. 28, 2022, according to a Federal Election Commission (FEC) database.
After launching its own PAC in July, BACPAC, AIME announced that it had raised more than $300,000 in 24 hours — a claim backed up by FEC filings.
“Our industry is growing,” McKay said in a statement at the time. “We need to make sure our influence grows along with it.”
According to FEC filings, more than 40 wholesale mortgage industry leaders whipped out their checkbooks and wrote $5,000 checks in July to help get BACPAC off the ground, while hundreds made smaller donations.
Those making $5,000 donations include UMortgage CEO Anthony Casa, Epoch Lending CEO Evan Wade and NXT Mortgage Co. President Tyler Hodgson.
Three executives at Homepoint Financial — CEO William Newman, Phil Shoemaker and William Pendleton — each wrote checks for $5,000, providing a total of $15,000 in funding.
Eight employees of United Wholesale Mortgage wrote checks totaling $13,250 to help launch BACPAC, including CEO Mat Ishbia and EVP Allen Beydoun, each kicking in $5,000. UWM Chief Growth Officer Desmond Smith and VP of Sales Robert Shkreli each wrote checks for $1,000.
Eight employees of C2 Financial Corp. contributed a total of $13,250 to BACPAC, including Loan Originator Jerilyn Shaw and Loan Officer Shelly Heimer, each donating $5,000.
BACPAC’s spending to date, while limited, includes a $2,500 contribution to help reelect North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry, the incoming leader of the House Financial Services Committee, and a $2,500 campaign donation to Idaho Republican Mike Crapo, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee.
BACPAC also provided $5,000 to the Defend Our Conservative Senate PAC, which backed a number of high-profile Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in November, including J.D. Vance’s successful run to represent Ohio, as well as failed bids by Herschel Walker and Mehmet Cengiz Öz (“Doctor Oz”).
To bolster its lobbying efforts, AIME hired Forbes Tate Partners, the 11th-biggest lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., with $18.5 million in receipts in the first nine months of 2022, according to records compiled by OpenSecrets.
“2022 was the year that AIME decided to drastically ramp up our advocacy efforts,” the group said in an annual report on its advocacy efforts. “For far too long, mortgage brokers have been voiceless, unorganized, and underrepresented in Washington, D.C. To kick-start this change, we needed to partner with a lobbying firm with the relationships, resources, and ingenuity to get us that seat as quickly as possible.”
The report outlined AIME’s top goals for 2022, which include launching “a grassroots advocacy network that amplifies the voice of the broker channel,” and gaining “a seat at the table” with state and federal legislators.
The group said it sent more than 10,000 “change-inducing letters” to state and federal legislators in 2022 and held more than 40 meetings with state and federal legislators and government officials.
The report outlined top issues on deck for AIME in 2023, including convincing more states to provide real estate tax exemptions for disabled veterans, reducing fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on loans originated by mortgage brokers and streamlining the appraisal and homebuying process for VA home loans.
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