Political Action Committee Shifts Strategy on Giving

THE nation's largest political action committee is scaling back its contributions to candidates for Congress, believing that politics of the future lie less in brute dollars than in home-grown activism.

The PAC of the National Association of Realtors, which has been spending more than $4 million on friendly lawmakers in each two-year election cycle, will reduce that to about $2.5 million this time around.

``We were not getting the most effective expenditure of the amount of money we did raise,'' said Steve Driesler, a senior association executive.

``Rather than carpet bombing every congressional campaign,'' he said, ``we're going to be a lot more focused and targeted in our giving''

With Congress contemplating campaign finance reform, other groups also are taking a fresh look at how they spend political money.

``As the PAC movement matures, we're finding that there's a lot of rethinking and reviewing going on,'' said Steven Stockmeyer, who represents an association of business political action committees.

The Realtors' board of directors ratified the changes for their organization at a meeting last month in Miami Beach, Fla.

They include new programs to encourage at-home fund-raisers for candidates, where local real estate people can informally ``bundle'' individual contributions; to recruit local campaign volunteers; and to use more ``soft'' dollars - corporate money that's banned for direct giving to candidates - to promote the organization's issues.

To help pay for the new efforts, the Realtors will stop giving to the Republican and Democratic parties and to the PACs of congressional leaders, and will slash about $1 million from independent spending for congressional candidates.

All the moves are aimed at promoting government policies friendly to the real estate industry. Cisneros Questions Media

Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros says the United States news media damage the presidency and the country by reporting Arkansas state troopers' allegations that they helped President Clinton pursue extramarital affairs.

``One really has to ask the fundamental question of the press itself `What is the point here? What are we trying to do?' '' Cisneros said Sunday on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

``Is it ... just to search and destroy, slash and burn, and follow every lead that ever comes along about anyone in public life,'' he continued. ``If so ... we do great damage to the presidency, and in so doing, to the country.''

Clinton has denied the allegations, and the credibility of the state troopers making the accusations has been called into question.

On another topic, Mr. Cisneros called the plight of US cities worse today than it was 25 years ago when a presidential commission declared that urban America was in crisis because of racial division. ``Despite tremendous gains for many Americans, including many Afro-Americans ... for many [urban dwellers] life is a lot worse,'' Cisneros said.

He said the combination of drugs, a lack of jobs, racial strife, and a general decline in the quality of life has made conditions ``worse than ... when the Kerner Commission wrote that the cities were in crisis.''

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