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$10 million in spin



Leaders of the N.C. Association of Realtors, those expert parsers of words and shaders of meaning, have announced their latest benevolent campaign: The powerful lobbying and trade group will direct $10 million into a "special advocacy fund designed to educate the public on key issues."

Translation: It will spend $10 million on spin. For example, last fall, the association organized a $235,000 advertising and public relations blitz—carried out by a local referendum group—to defeat the land-transfer tax in Orange County alone.

While the association contends the money will be used to protect such lofty ideals as "private property rights" and "housing affordability," don't confuse these turns of phrase to mean affordable housing.

There are dozens of examples of how governments, investment companies and private investors have spent $10 million, not on commercials and junk mail, but on affordable housing and related projects.

For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made a grant to Shack/Slum Dwellers International, whose members live in 24 countries, from South Africa to Brazil to India. The money is used to build latrines, upgrade dilapidated homes and start schools. Here are three more examples of good works.

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