I like to think that I’m a very politically aware individual. I follow causes important to me, I make donations to efforts I believe in when I can, and I write in to my representatives around once a month. Like many on all sides of the conversation, I have a lot of support to give or rebuke. And I bet you do, too!
Not so fast.
It’s great to want to show support to your favorite representative or candidate. And you can absolutely do that…but if you’re a board member, you want to tread lightly in how and when you show that support. Can your Community Association get involved in local politics?
Why Is This Even an Issue?
Well, because politics are messy. Candidates want access to Community Associations because communities contain large numbers of their constituency. So of course, politicians want the endorsement of a community.
And in an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue, because all elected officials would have only the best of intentions for the country, and there would be no greed or dishonesty. I bet there would even be unicorns!
But, an ideal world we do not live in, so we must be careful about how we represent ourselves when showing support.
Careful like if you're going to go out to drinking with friends, and think you might get a little bit sloppy, you make sure you aren't wearing your company logo! Mostly, you just want to be aware of who you're representing with your support--and I don't mean which candidate.
When you make a decision to offer a candidate support as a member of the Board of Everytown Homeowners/Condo Association, you're speaking on behalf of the community. Let's say there's a candidate who says they can cure cancer and end world hunger, but they're also on the Board of Directors for National Puppy Kickers, Inc. and actively support the Foundation for Stealing Candy from Toddlers. I'm sure there are some who would support this (intentionally ridiculous) fictitious person, but just like real politics, there are just as many who would oppose them. And neither side should feel like their support is being given without their permission.
So here's a couple of things you can't do (and ways you can get around them!):
- A Board Member cannot make a donation to a candidate with community funds.
- But you can! You, Jane or John Doe of Anywheresville, USA, can make a contribution of your own personal money to any candidate that you deem worthy.
- A Community cannot post candidacy signage in common areas.
- But you can! You can post all the signage you want on all of your privately-owned property. Your personal car, your own home, even your weirdly patriotic pet armadillo can show off how much you believe in your chosen candidate (obviously while adhering to your community regulations...and probably animal ownership and care laws, too).
Is There Anything a Community CAN Do?
Of course! As I said, candidates love Community Associations because they're large pockets of their constituency. And because candidates track the activities of their competition, it isn't uncommon for multiple candidates to vie for your attention! At the end of the day, communities (and their members) hold a lot of power, and there are a few ways you can utilize it:
- Friendraiser, anyone?
- A friendraiser is the fund-less counterpart to a fundraiser. Where a fundraiser's goal is to raise funds (a big no-no when the donor is a community), a friendraiser's goal is to, well, make friends! It's a chance for candidates to meet with a large group of their potential constituents and hopefully walk away with a new list of potential supporters.
- Candidate forum
- A candidate forum is a great way for a candidate to hold an open and honest discussion about their platform with voters. Think of it as a real life AMA (Ask Me Anything), where a candidate can address issues tied to the community, including toll roads, estoppels or other pending laws, micromanagement of board members, community access, and more.
You can also get involved with a CAI Legislative Action Committee (LAC)! LACs are volunteer-based committees founded through CAI and are dedicated to allowing a state's constituency to fight for the industry's best interests.
Per CAI, "LACs exist to represent the interests of and provide regular communications to, CAI members and chapters located within their boundaries with respect to state legislative, regulatory and amicus curiae activities of relevance to the creation and operation of community associations."
Getting involved in the political sphere is great! Just be sure you're careful about what that involvement entails.