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|Who||Walberg for Congress|
|What||“Truth,” 30-second video|
In one of the state's more competitive congressional races, 7th district GOP incumbent Tim Walberg and Democratic state Rep. Gretchen Driskell are trading blows over free trade and Walberg's assertion that Driskell improperly called herself a real-estate broker when she is in fact a real-estate agent. In this 30-second ad, Walberg accuses Driskell of falsely attacking him on free trade. It then states that Driskell listed herself as a real estate broker, “when records show she does not have a license to match.” The district includes Hillsdale, Lenawee, Branch, Jackson, Eaton, Monroe and Washtenaw counties.
“Gretchen Driskell’s ad attacking Tim Walberg isn’t true. Tim Walberg opposes the harmful TPP trade deal. That’s not the only thing Driskell isn’t being honest about. MIRS reports she advertised herself as a real estate broker when records show she does not have the license to match. Gretchen Driskell lies about herself. Lies about Tim Walberg. Don’t believe anything she says.”
Statements under review
“Gretchen Driskell’s ad attacking Tim Walberg isn’t true. Tim Walberg opposes the harmful TPP trade deal.”
Driskell's been airing a TV ad accusing Walberg of voting yes on “every single free trade deal” to come before Congress during his time in office. The ad cites his votes in favor of trade deals with Peru, Colombia and Korea. While her ad does not mention it, Walberg also voted for a free trade deal with Panama. And in 2015, he voted to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Walberg has since come out against TPP.
“That’s not the only thing Driskell isn’t being honest about. MIRS reports she advertised herself as a real estate broker when records show she does not have the license to match. Gretchen Driskell lies about herself. Lies about Tim Walberg. Don’t believe anything she says.”
In June, MIRS – a Lansing-based political newsletter – reported that Driskell had listed herself as a real estate broker when she is licensed as a real estate salesperson – commonly known as an agent. Whether or not it's a significant distinction seems to be a matter of opinion.
The article cited several occasions in which Driskell called herself a real estate broker. That included her LinkedIn profile listing her as a commercial real estate broker, her personal profile for Ann Arbor-based Swisher Commercial listing her as an “agent/broker” as well as a MLive article in 2012 which described Driskell as a commercial real estate broker.
In Michigan, a real estate broker is required to complete 90 hours of coursework – which typically costs upwards of $500 – as well as pass an exam costing $76.
According to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), real estate brokers are licensed to manage their own business and can oversee the work of real estate salespersons, while real estate salespersons must work with a broker. Driskell does not hold a broker's license and is licensed as a real estate salesperson by LARA.
The MIRS article, which is behind a paywall, quoted a member of the Michigan Board of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons who stated that the distinction between broker and salesperson is “a big deal being in the industry. ...It's a misrepresentation of what your license is.”
But the top executive at the Michigan Commercial Board of Realtors had a different take.
In a subsequent MIRS article, MCBOR CEO Nancy Allen called the claim that Driskell was inflating her resume “ridiculous.”
Allen said the online database that commercial real estate agents use – the Commercial Property Information Exchange – classifies professionals like Driskell as “agent/broker” because Allen said in their line of work the terms are interchangeable
In an email to Swisher Commercial shared with Bridge Magazine, Allen said: “In response to your inquiry regarding the difference between a “Managing Broker” and an “Agent/Broker”, please be aware that nationally, the licensed sales/person is referred to as an “agent” or “broker” interchangeably. This is true for Michigan practitioners as well.
“Note a “Managing Broker” is THE Designated Broker of a firm and is responsible for all of the licenses in his/her firm. However, the Agent/Broker is the individual licensee. This is also the terminology used by the National Association of REALTORS.”
Since the initial reporting of this story, Driskell changed her profile at LinkedIn and Swisher Commercial to describe herself as an “agent.” Her profile says she has been with Swisher since 2006.
The ad's first assertion – that Driskell's attack on Walberg for supporting free trade is a lie – falls flat in the face of the evidence. Walberg did indeed vote for four separate free-trade deals, with Peru, Colombia, Panama and Korea. He also voted to give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate TPP. While he says he now opposes TPP, he has yet to record a vote against a free trade agreement. Driskell’s ad was clearly focused on Walberg’s past votes and accurately described them. To call her ad false, much less a “lie,” is without basis.
The claim that Driskell lied about her resume by calling herself a broker is a bit more complex. While it's true Driskell does not hold a broker's license, there is dispute among experts in real estate as to whether her listing as broker was improper. Nevertheless, the wording of his charge is technically accurate. Driskell did list herself as a real estate broker. And she did not have a license to match.
In sum, though, the ad fails to make the case for its dramatic concluding statement: “Don’t believe anything she says.”