As Elections Neared, CUs Turn On The PAC Spigots

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It was down to the wire in dozens of congressional races, and credit union groups, especially CUNA and its league affiliates, along with NAFCU were doing all they could to see that favored candidates were able to finance any campaign activities they need to in the waning days of the campaign.

A $5,000 contribution to Colorado senate candidate Ken Salazar; $1,000 for Rep. Mark Foley of Florida; $500 for Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania-CUNA's political action committee was feverishly doling out campaign contributions to candidates from Maine to California over the two weeks headed into election day-$140,000 to 90 different candidates, all distinguished by their avowed support for credit unions.

"We've been spreading it out quite a bit, now that it's down to the wire," said Richard Gose, political director for CUNA.

Among the candidates receiving the maximum allowable $5,000 contribution for the general election in the weeks just prior to the election are: Reps. John Dingell (D-MI), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), and newcomers Thelma Drake (R-VA) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

CUNA has made more than $2.6 million in campaign contributions during the current election cycle, including almost $300,000 to 140 candidates since the beginning of September.

NAFCU, too, was opening the spigots on its campaign fund in the weeks before election day. "We're trying to do what we can to help those credit union supporters who may need a little bit of assistance at this stage of the campaign," said Brad Thaler, director of NAFCU's PAC.

Among those receiving financial help from NAFCU in the final weeks were: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee ($2,000); Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who is drafting a regulatory relief bill for credit unions and banks ($1,000); Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), a major bankruptcy bill backer who is in a close race ($1,000); Rep. George Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chief sponsor of the bankruptcy reform bill ($2,000); the Southern California Fund, a leadership PAC for California Rep. Brad Sherman, leading advocate of secondary capital for credit unions ($2,500); and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

The two leading credit union groups were also grooming the next generation of credit union supporters in Congress, with contributions in the final weeks going to the offspring of past-generations of credit union friends. Among them are Democratic State Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, son of former Sen. David Boren; Democratic State Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri, son of former Sen. Jean Carnahan and former Gov. Mel Carnahan; and Republican State Rep Connie Mack IV of Florida, son of the former U.S. Senator of the same name. Of course, Mack, the third, was a banker by trade and was no credit union supporter. Then there's Democratic Rep. Charles Gonzalez of Texas, son of former House Banking Committee Chairman Henry Gonzalez; and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, daughter of former Sen. Frank Murkowski, who are receiving credit union support for their reelection campaigns.

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