The vast majority of organizations and coalitions working on housing affordability are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, and as such are banned from endorsing candidates or making contributions to campaigns. There are a few rare housing advocacy efforts structured differently. One group determined to have a sharper political edge is the Tenants Political Action Committee (PAC) which is formed of volunteer advocates in New York City, Westchester County, and Nassau County.
Tenants PAC was formed in the late 90s as a response to the outsized influence landlord organizations have with the New York state legislature. Even though they will never be able to match the dollars that landlords are able to offer, Tenants PAC tries to provide financial support to candidates they think are aligned with expanding rent control and other tenant protections. The organization raises funds and distributes contributions to endorsed candidates.
Beyond just contributions, Tenants PAC recruits and trains volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls for endorsed candidates. In 2018, Tenants PAC has contributed $24,000 to six endorsed candidates. They are also mobilizing to get out the vote for a state senate special election in Westchester County.
At the beginning of each election cycle, Tenants PAC reaches out to declared candidates and invites them to share their positions on rent control and tenant protections. Endorsements are publicly announced, and candidates list the endorsement of Tenants PAC on campaign literature, websites, or campaign advertisements. The endorsement demonstrates to voters that a candidate is a friend to renters.
It is important to note that Tenants PAC has a different tax designation as a Political Action Committee, and it is not considered a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. 501(c)(3) nonprofits and foundations CANNOT endorse candidates or make contributions of any kind to campaigns.