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It was mid-afternoon on October 27, 2021, while seated at a table in the Republican National Club in Washington, DC, that my good friend and highly respected lobbyist Matt Keelen showed me a confidential memo indicating that the sections in the Build Back Better Bill that were devastating to the self-directed IRA community were being rewritten.  I had been in DC that day to lobby face to face with several Democrat members of Congress relative to Sections 138312 and 138314 of that bill, as well as continue advocating for them to co-sponsor H.R. 5013, the Affordable Homeownership Access Act, introduced by Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D) of Texas.

 

After showing me the memo, Matt asked me a very pointed question.  “Jeff, do you have any idea why the Build Back Better Bill doesn’t further limit the opportunity to do seller financing?”  It was a somewhat rhetorical question.  Matt and I had been working along with other individuals such as Eddie Speed, Bob Repass, Charles Tassell of National REIA, Glen Lee of Houston, Texas, and other distinguished individuals to get a bill passed in the last several sessions of Congress to modify Dodd Frank, the SAFE Act and TILA to increase the number of allowed seller-financed transactions from 3 to 24 in a given 12-month period of time.  Fortunately, the Build Back Better Bill was not further tightening that restriction.

 

My answer to Matt was what he was looking for.  “Because the Seller Finance Coalition has a presence in Washington, DC based upon our years of working with you.”

 

Because a number of custodians in the self-directed space have been strong proponents of the Seller Finance Coalition, we were able to leverage SFC resources to impact key members of Congress to remove from the current version of the Build Back Better Bill (Nov. 3, 2021) those two terrible provisions that would have destroyed self-directed IRAs.  Keep in mind that while I am writing this article, that bill is still in the process of being negotiated and has not yet been put to a full vote in the House or Senate, so things could change.

 

One of the most powerful tools used in this fight was the website created by my good friend John Hyre, HandsOffMyIRA.com.  This website contained all the necessary information needed to understand the issue, and it gave a step-by-step process for how to take action.  For quite some time, the website included a direct link to National REIA’s Voter Voice system.  Voter Voice is another powerful tool that was used to specifically target each individual user’s member of Congress via email.

 

In addition to many people contacting the various members of Congress by email using those tools, several of us reached out to our contacts with information focusing on certain key members of Congress that we identified as the “Important 8”.  At the time of this writing, the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives is only 3, which means it must be nearly unanimous among the Democrat Party to pass this agenda item.  By peeling off 3 or 4 votes from those Important 8, we could stop those two destructive provisions.

 

Through social media, emails and word of mouth, actionable information was spreading throughout the investor community as to what was going on, including reaching big investor funds that would be severely affected if there was a limit placed on how accredited investors could use their IRA money.  This growing awareness resulted in a large number of people directly contacting not just their members of Congress, but the Important 8 members as well.

 

A few hours after that lunch meeting with Matt Keelen, he and I had a meeting with Congressman Vicente Gonzalez relative to both his sponsorship of H.R. 5013 and the threat posed by the Build Back Better Bill to self-directed IRAs and seller financing.  I explained how those sections in the bill that threatened IRAs would also detrimentally impact the change we are trying to make with H.R. 5013.

 

At the end of our meeting with Congressman Gonzalez, he said he was going to speak with his friend Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.  I watched him leave our meeting and walk over to the Democrat National Club.  The next day, it was official.  Those terrible provisions had been removed from the Build Back Better Bill!  As of the November 3rd version, some things had been added back in, but the two provisions that the IRA community was aggressively fighting are still out.

 

On Friday, November 5, 2021, Congressman Gonzalez was a guest speaker at NoteExpo in Grapevine, Texas.  He reiterated all of the above and then elaborated with this key point.  He indicated that in his office, as in many of his colleagues’ offices, when they receive five or more clear communications about a particular issue or problem, they pay attention.  They have systems in place to track incoming emails and phone calls both for and against a particular issue.  Then Congressman Gonzalez dropped the bombshell.  He explained that one of the most effective forms of advocacy is to schedule a meeting with a member of Congress at their District Office (no need to travel to DC like I do) and have two or three people come with you to briefly explain in a 10-minute meeting what your concerns are, leaving behind a one-page summary of the situation.

 

When it comes to reaching out to your member of Congress regarding asking them to co-sponsor H.R. 5013, Congressman Gonzalez said that if you have done a seller-financed deal and can bring the buyer with you to meet with your member of Congress to explain how that buyer was able to become a homeowner because of seller financing, that would be the most powerful form of communication you could have.

 

After sharing this happy story about how advocacy works, let me tell you some things that don’t work when it comes to advocacy:

  • Being passive and doing nothing.
  • Believing that sending just one email, message or letter is enough.
  • Thinking that someone else is going to do it for you.
  • Believing that all you have to do is complain, and things will get better.

Members of Congress are incredibly busy, and there are many things trying to grab their attention every day.  An important concern for every member of Congress is that they have to run for election every two years.  This means they are almost perpetually in a fundraising cycle.  Grassroots campaign contributions mean a lot to them!  Having a face-to-face conversation with a member of Congress at a small, private fundraiser is one of the most powerful forms of political advocacy that can be done.  That requires people being willing to make campaign contributions to their members of Congress.

 

My hope is that this threat against self-directed IRAs has awakened the real estate investing community to the understanding that we can no longer be a sleeping giant.  We must remove ourselves from being the carcass on the table that is carved up and take a seat at the table by continuing to be positive, helpful and active in engaging with our members of Congress.

 

 

Jeffery S. Watson is an attorney who has had an active trial and hearing practice for more than 25 years. As a contingent fee trial lawyer, he has a unique perspective on investing and wealth protection. He has tried over 20 civil jury trials and has handled thousands of contested hearings. Jeff has changed the law in Ohio four times via litigation.  Read more of his viewpoints at WatsonInvested.com.

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