Today, there are numerous complaints in the timeshare industry and thus, many owners want to get out of their timeshare contracts. But in Broward County, Florida and across the country, owners will soon split $562,000. This is an amount equal to the illegal contributions collected by the political fundraising arm of the US vacation industry from 2003-2007.
The said payout is a part of a deal between the industry and the Federal Election Commission to settle civil allegations of wrongdoing in the solicitation and distribution of millions of dollars in political contributions. The American Resort Development Association - Resort Owners Coalition PAC will also pay a $300,000 civil penalty. This is the largest fine imposed by the FEC since 2007.
According to ARDA, the errors were made in the collection of contributions but called them unintentional and unfortunate. ARDA's Washington attorney Mark Braden said that ARDA has taken proactive steps to suspend any improper practices and rectify past errors in an open and transparent way.
Meanwhile, the sale of vacation timeshares is a $10 billion-a-year business, with a large footprint in South Florida. In 2008 alone, 4.7 million households owned one or more weekly interval or points-equivalent timeshare properties as cited in ARDA's website. Moreover, Florida has more timeshare resorts than any other state.
ARDA is the industry's Washington-based trade association and also a major lobbying force on Capitol Hill and in Tallahassee. As shown by Federal records, since 2006, ARDA has spent more than $1.1 million on Washington lobbyists to oppose such things as mortgage reform legislation, including the expansion of truth-in-lending requirements to timeshare buyers.
Meanwhile, ARDA-ROC PAC has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans and Democrats and nearly all that political money came from tens of thousands of timeshare owners who paid them in small amounts to their property management companies as part of their regular bills. In 2008, the FEC disclosed that timeshare owners had been misled into donating to ARDA-ROC PAC while paying their regular vacation property fees. Political contributions are voluntary, and federal law requires solicitations to make that clear. At least three of ARDA-ROC PAC's solicitations lacked that information.