Credit Union PACs Have Large Amounts of Cash

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The credit union lobby is gearing up for election season in a big way.

The movement has quietly put away more than $1 million in cash, held by the federal election PACs, to contribute to congressional campaigns in this, the decisive second year of the two-year election cycle.

CUNA alone has accumulated $710,000 of available cash in its PAC, by far the most ever, and NAFCU, after its most successful fundraising year, has set aside $200,000, more than twice its previous high. And an assortment of other federal PACs operated by state leagues and individual credit unions have more than $400,000 to spend.

The PACs will spend all of these available funds, and more as they raise it, on contributions to candidates, still the lifeblood of politics, as the November elections near.

Richard Gose, political director for CUNA, insists that the accumulation of such a large campaign warchest is not intentional, but just the byproduct of the PAC's continued success. "We're not sitting on a lot of money because we have some grandiose plan. But having money does afford you some options," conceded Gose.

It also represents the recognition of the increased importance of so-called hard-money donations to candidates from PACs and individuals in the face of the new ban on soft money, the unrestricted large donations that flooded the political system over the past decade. "PAC money, of course, is at a premium. We knew it was going to be, even more so than before," said Karen Kincer, Gose's assistant.

The large cash reserve will also enable CUNA to embark on different methods of influencing campaigns, like the independent expenditures CUNA's PAC made on behalf of two credit union allies in the last elections, Republican Rob Porter from Nevada, and Democrat Michael Michaud from Maine. In a test run, CUNA's PAC spent $100,000 in so-called independent expenditures to buy air time touting the two neophyte candidates just before the election, and helping boost the two to victory.

Gose said they plan to do more independent expenditures, which are required to be conducted independently of the candidates, in this year's elections. The emphasis, he stressed, will be on a positive message. "The credit union message," he said.

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