Realtors take out big mortgage on California House race

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Tuesday's contest in California's 31st Congressional District morphed into the biggest outside money spending spree of any House primary so far, thanks a massive influx of funds by the National Association of Realtors on behalf of Rep. Gary Miller.Rep Gary Miller

Late unofficial returns from the California Secretary of State's office show that Miller, a seven-term Republican running in a new district, topped a six-person field with nearly 27 percent of the votes cast, winning a slot on November's ballot. Because of a new California primary system that sends the top two finishers in a free-for-all primary to the general election, regardless of party, it appears that voters in the slightly Democratic-leaning district will be choosing between two Republicans: Miller and state Sen. Bob Dutton. Dutton got 25 percent of the vote to earn the second ballot position. Pete Aguilar, a local mayor, finished top among the three Democrats in the race, with 23 percent of the vote, but out of the money for November.

Miller, whose personal ties to the real estate industry have raised ethical controversies, benefitted from $802,000 from two committees associated with the realtors, the lions share of more than $1 million of outside money spent in the race. of California, where Republicans clashed in the primary. Miller moved from his existing district to avoid running against another veteran Republican, Ed Royce. 

The realtors' association contributions came through their PAC and Congressional Fund and went to a lawmaker who has looked out for the real estate development industry. Of the 15 pieces of legislation he has sponsored in this session of Congress, nine of them had to do with mortgages or real-estate development. So far this year Miller has sponsored two pieces of legislation, both having to do with mortgages.

His most recent bill, H. R. 5823 would keep Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac from selling houses in bulk in California, out of concern that increasing supply of homes would depress housing prices.

Preserving Consumers' Mortgage Origination Choices Act of 2012 would loosen restrictions on commissions for mortgage originators. This would amend the Truth in Lending Act to allow more financial incentives for writing loans.

Miller has personal ties to the real estate sector: Before entering politics, he founded G. Miller Development. He built homes and planned communities. His most recent personal financial disclosure via Center for Responsive Politics states that he is still the president of G. Miller Development and partner at Long Term Bend, LLC and Lands Bend, LLC. Miller lists scores of properties in California and Oregon. His net worth is estimated from $17 million to $74 million dollars, according to the report. (Members of Congress are required to tally their finances in ranges of value rather than exact amounts). 

Recent filings also show Miller holding bonds in a toll road that he helped to be approved and subsidized. He also held bonds while pushing for an extension of the he Eastern and Foothill (241) toll roads. Miller told the Orange County Register that his political actions were not financially motivated. These and other land dealings have brought him under investigation by the news media and the Justice Department, but Miller has maintained he has done nothing wrong.

Jobs Opportunity and Freedom PAC is also supporting Miller with a modest $2,000 advertising production. Miller is being opposed by the Democratic State Central Committee of CA . They have invested $1,800 in a website opposing Miller.

Other candidates in the race attracted less outside spending in the primary, held under a new California law under which all candidates run in a single contest, with the top two finishers, regardless of political party, going on to contest the general election. Democrat Pete Aguilar received $160,000 in outside support from Restoring Our Community, funded by CA Credit Union League PAC and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians C .

Dutton received $69,000 in outside spending help from Inland Empire Taxpayers for Jobs. Its donors include Bob Dutton’s father– Theodore Dutton who pitched in $15,000 for the super PAC supporting his son. The elder Dutton’s company, Urban Advisors, is an urban planning consulting firm, it donated an additional $10,000 to the PAC. Prime Healthcare Services, a Southern California hospital management company donated $25,000. Burrtec Waste Industries donated $10,000 to the PAC. Inland Empire Taxpayers for Jobs used the money on direct mail in support of Dutton.