Mortgage brokers make their voices heardDoug AndersonNAMB 2001 Legislative Conference, lobbying, 2001 legislative session The power of persistence. The power of the people. The power of purpose. The persistence is that we will not go away. The people are the borrowers we lend to, as well as every Mortgage Broker in this country. The power is the strength of our grassroots, built like a strong evergreen tree and bound to the earth with decade-old roots. Every time I fly into Washington, D.C. via Reagan National Airport, whether it be in the full sunshine of the day or in the shadows of the evening with spotlights highlighting the national monuments, I feel the power and purpose of our Nations Capitol. It is a feeling every Mortgage Broker and every citizen should experience just once in his or her lifetime. All I have to do is think about the 537 most powerful elected officials in the world who work in this city-the United States President, Vice President, 100 Senators and 435 Representatives-to know why that power is present. And, yet, the assembly of Mortgage Brokers at the National Association of Mortgage Brokers Legislative and Regulatory Conference 2001 was reminded by California Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a "Blue Dog Democrat," that these people work for you and me. Rep. Tauscher encouraged attendees to make the people we elect and who are employed by us to be accountable to us. It was a lesson I needed to hear because of the intimidating atmosphere I feel whenever I walk through the security stations at the entrances and down the hallways of all the office buildings of our elected officials. Between visits to the representatives of our respective states, as we walked from the "Senate side" of the Capitol to the "House side," one of my fellow Coloradans made a statement that rang inside of me. We were walking in front of the Capitol, looking down the mall to the Lincoln Memorial, and she said, "I hope we always have the free and open access to our governing officials that we have today." It makes me stop and think about just how fortunate we all are. We may disagree with our elected officials, but at least we can voice our opinions and lobby for our desired outcome. Many of us have marveled at how a colony of well-organized army ants can put together an intricate system of self-defense, power and mobility. They work tirelessly and selflessly, as they are driven to accomplish their inherent goals. This year at the NAMB 2001 Legislative Conference, brokers from 40 states were witnesses to the same demonstration of the "army ant mentality." For more than 10 years, NAMB members have been playing the role of lobbyist for Mortgage Brokers and the mortgage industry. Each year, we knock on the doors of our regulators (HUD and the Federal Reserve) and our individual Representatives and Senators. This year's lineup of distinguished guest speakers addressing the NAMB membership included those agencies in the past that, not only refused to open the door when we knocked, but also placed double deadbolt locks on those doors to be certain we could not gain access. If we were invited in, we were escorted down dark corridors walking by endless numbers of closed doorways on each side of us, only to sit and wait to speak to the assistant of the assistant. I still remember the first NAMB Legislative Conference I attended...Barbara Sisk, a Dallas-based broker, was the NAMB Legislative Chair. I sat in on a legislative meeting and learned that RESPA and TILA weren't the same law. I saw a handful of people I had never met, such as NAMB 1997-1998 President Jan Hix, who welcomed me in and discussed important issues. We were going to march on the Hill to defeat the new HOEPA, high-cost mortgage amendment to the Truth-In-Lending Act proposed by Rep. Joseph Kennedy. It was a tough day, and we were beaten severely. However, from that day to this we have had the "army ant" generals, such as 1998-1999 NAMB President J.C. "Tuck" Marshall who declared war with "We need a bill!" We have also witnessed the master, Government Affairs Chair Jim Nabors II, who diligently worked, unseen by many of us, between national meetings, getting HUD, the Federal Reserve, the Consumer Mortgage Coalition, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the Home Equity Lenders Leadership Organization, the National Home Equity Mortgage Association and others to understand who we are and what we really do as Mortgage Brokers. At one point, NAMB President Neill Fendly, literally spent more time in Washington, D.C. lobbying these same groups and testifying in Congress in one year than he did at his own company. They have all paid the price for us. They are our forefathers. However, for this year's Legislative Conference, HUD Secretary Mel Martinez delivered a rousing presentation to the largest contingent of Mortgage Brokers to ever attend an NAMB legislative event. He talked about open doors. He spoke about ease of access. He addressed the fact that HUD needed to become more fiscally responsible. Though the words were important, a much clearer message was conveyed by his presence. Never before has a member of the President of the United States Cabinet stood in front of a roomful of Mortgage Brokers. Never has a HUD Secretary delivered a positive message to Mortgage Brokers that we can work as a team to increase homeownership to underserved markets. Mr. Martinez, not as a threat to put more restraints on brokers, but as a significant act, mentioned predatory lending by unscrupulous and unwanted originators whom we all want out of the industry. Other formidable speakers included Federal Reserve Governor Jane Ahrens. She briefed the attendees on the public comments made on the predatory lending town meetings that the Federal Reserve Board has held. She gave us indications of what the Federal Reservethe regulator of the Truth-In-Lending Actwill be doing to modify the Home Ownership Equity Protection Act (HOEPA). Largely rushed because of the tight schedules of Representatives Bob Barr of Georgia and Bob Ney of Ohio, NAMB Mortgage Finance Counsel Robert Lotstein of Lotstein Buckman LLP delivered a detailed presentation of the history and accomplishments of NAMB's total mortgage reform efforts. As it is, politics isn't the fastest moving train, which Mr. Lotstein pointed out. We, as members of NAMB, have been making in-roads, as well as talking about and developing mortgage reform since 1996. Now with concepts in hand, we must work within the framework of our political leaders. Mr. Lotstein's determination and detailed efforts have continuously kept NAMB on the forefront of legislator and regulator minds as we make daily efforts to be the engine pulling the train over the rocky mountains of consumer groups and other objectors. The march to our Congressional offices on this day was easy. To sit down and tell a Representative and his or her aide who have seen us before that we are not "pushing" or "selling" anything today made the meetings both cordial and effective. These officials in power know who we are. They know we are working in their system to change "our world." They are willing to work with us. Our goal at the NAMB Legislative and Regulatory Conference was to remind them of the story that we are America's choice for mortgage origination. I heard them tell me, "Yes, and don't you originate more than 60 percent of the home loans across America?" They know. And, even as we are patient, we are also making our visits to these same Representatives in our home state to reinforce our relationships with them. Today was a good day. Tomorrow will be even better because of it. Doug Anderson is President of the Colorado Association of Mortgage Brokers, and National Association of Mortgage Brokers Communications Committee Chair and Legislative Committee Regional Vice Chair. He may be reached at (303) 619-9941 or fax (720) 221-9741.