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The California Credit Union League needed a new director of political finance, so it turned to the state's Republican Party.

Katie Newton, who served as the GOP's deputy finance director in the Golden State, joined the California league in the state capital Jan. 27. She will be in charge of meeting the annual political action committee fund-raising goals of the California and Nevada leagues. In addition, Newton will serve as league liaison to regional PACs operated by the two state leagues. Newton takes over for Ron Fong, who was promoted to director of state government affairs.

Just two days before she was scheduled to start her new job, Newton talked to The Credit Union Journal about the challenges ahead and how she intends to meet them.

CUJ: What did you know about credit unions before taking this position?

Newton: I didn't know a lot, other than they are tax exempt, but I look forward to learning more.

CUJ: What will your job entail?

Newton: I will work with the advocacy team forwarding the efforts of the political action committee. My office will be here in Sacramento, but I will be doing both state and federal fundraising for the PAC.

CUJ: What does your experience bring to the job?

Newton: When you work in politics within a party, you work with different types of people with different backgrounds and beliefs. With any advocacy position, working with people is important, and I'm a people person.

CUJ: Bob Arnould praised your familiarity with California legislators. What kind of contacts do you have?

Newton: I have worked closely with all the Republican leaders, including Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Tustin), Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), and Senator Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), who was in the assembly for six years and last November was elected to the state senate. I've made phone calls for events, for fundraising purposes and for other party activities. I became quite familiar with all the Republicans. I'm looking forward to working with the Democrats, also. Of course, I know some of them, but I don't know them personally.

CUJ: What about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Newton: Arnold has definitely helped out the Republican Party. He is a great person to have on the Republican's side. I've met him briefly, but I've never sat down with him.

CUJ: Can credit unions raise enough money to be heard?

Newton: That's the goal all credit unions should have. You want to make sure you are heard on the state and national level. Also, you want everybody to be involved in the political process.

CUJ: What works and what doesn't in PAC fundraising?

Newton: This is my first time in PAC fundraising. I come from party fundraising, which is a lot of hard work and phone calls. I am looking forward to learning the new techniques.

CUJ: How do you demonstrate return on investment in fundraising?

Newton: You want to make sure you set a goal of the amount you want to raise. Then, you make sure it is met. Events are good, but the best way is to get on the phone and speak person-to-person, colleague-to-colleague.

CUJ: What drew you into politics?

Newton: I grew up in Sacramento, but then I went away to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. After I graduated in 1999, one of my friends was the campaign manager for Jeff Denham, who was running for the state Senate 12th District [Denham currently is a member of the California Senate Banking Committee]. I was asked to be the deputy campaign manager in charge of fundraising. From there, I met folks in Sacramento, I worked for the Republican caucus, and I got involved in fundraising for the assembly and the senate. I've been here ever since.

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