Bankers Reach New Low With Accusation

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Editor's Note:

The letter below is in response to an opinion piece authored by John Sorensen, president of the Iowa Bankers Association, and published in the Des Moines Business Record. The "Saddam" reference referred to in the letter is in response to Mr. Sorenson's statement: "The credit union lobby's reasponse to this public policy question has been to mount a negative advertising campaign against Iowa banks. It blames banks for everything from the current state of our economy to Saddam Hussein. It is a campaign that would make the most hardened Washington spin-doctor proud."

In their constant attacks on Iowa's not-for-profit credit unions, bankers often provide the public with misleading information in order to benefit their industry-disappointing yet expected. But recently, the Iowa Bankers Association reached a new low when they said in a statewide guest editorial that credit unions had blamed banks for everything from the economy to Saddam Hussein.

The bankers indicate we said these things in a "negative advertising campaign against Iowa banks." If you have heard both the bank the credit union commercials, it is easy to tell who took the negative approach.

While we're used to bankers' misstatements-like the quip about the economy-their "Saddam" reference in connection with credit unions is in very poor taste at this difficult time for our country. It is unfortunate that banks do not have the mature leadership to ensure professional decorum during this public debate between our industries.

We recognize that banks are not satisfied with their 92% market share, but had no idea their resentment of the credit union alternative ran so deep. Despite their hostility, we cannot let banks stop us from defending our industry or our members' interests.

Iowa credit unions are financial cooperatives owned by the members who use their services. Credit unions return earnings to members in the form of lower rates on loans, fewer fees, higher returns on savings and bonus dividends. Credit unions also pay their fair share of state taxes. As a matter of fact, Iowa is one of the highest taxing states for credit unions in the U.S.

Iowans by the thousands have been writing their legislators to support their credit unions' current not-for-profit tax status. These members know banks are trying to hurt the safety and soundness of credit unions by limiting their ability to build retained earnings. Even Iowa Credit Union Superintendent Jim Forney has communicated to legislators his concerns regarding the negative impact this legislation has on credit unions' safety and soundness.

Banks end their editorial by referencing the irony that both credit unions and Girl Scouts are not-for-profit organizations. I think the banks could learn a lot from the Girl Scout Prayer which, in part, says: "Lord, help us be good Girl Scouts, Ones whom the world can trust, Help us respect our neighbor's rights, And never be unjust." It sounds like a pretty good creed for all of us to live by, and one in which bankers should take to heart.

Janet E. Hinrichs

Iowa Credit Union League Board Chair

CEO, Des Moines Metro Credit Union

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