CUNA Fills Out Lobbying Team

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CUNA continued the remake of the credit union lobby last week by hiring two political operatives-one of them an insider on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

John Magill, who will be CUNA's new top lobbyist, is chief of staff to California Congressman Wally Herger, one of the senior Republicans on the tax-writing panel who will be in the running for the chairman's seat upon the retirement later this year of sometime credit union critic Bill Thomas. Magill's connections on the tax-writing panel will be critical as the bankers continue to push the issue of repeal of the credit union tax exemption.

Hired along with Magill was Dean Sagar, senior legislative staffer for the Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee who helped draft HR 1151, the 1998 CU Member Access Act, giving CUNA a new one-two lobbying punch on both sides of the congressional aisle.

The two will replace chief lobbyist John McKechnie and senior lobbyist Gary Kohn, both of whom left CUNA in December to join NCUA.

McKechnie also hired a senior legislative aide for his congressional staff at NCUA. Anne-Marie Kelley, was legislative aide to Senate Banking Committee member Jim Bunning, R-Ky. Last week's hirings complete a major remake of the CU lobby, which began with the February appointment of congressional aide Dan Berger to succeed Bill Donovan as chief lobbyist at NAFCU. Donovan left the trade group to work for the Washington law firm Venable LLC, which does congressional and regulatory work for credit unions and banks.

CUNA's hiring last week was considered clever in that both Magill and Sagar are experienced and well-known on Capitol Hill, and that Magill has close ties to members of the Ways and Means Committee, where any tax legislation originates. "It makes eminent sense to have someone on your staff who is close to the Ways and Means Committee," said Jonathan Lindley, a long-time credit union and banking lobbyist. "I think it's critical because (taxation is) going to be a continuing issue and I think you need to pay attention to it."

"It's a real coup for CUNA," said another long-time CU lobbyist who did not want to be identified. "He's not only well respected on the Hill, but he also has experience on a key committee of credit union interest at this time. He knows the environment inside and out on that committee."

Magill has almost 30 years' experience on Capitol Hill, having worked the past 19 years for Herger, and before that for Rep. William Whitehurst, R-Va., and Rep. Kenneth Robinson, R-Va. He has also been involved in numerous Republican groups, including the GOP's Capitol Hill Club and the Hill Investment Club. Magill, who is married to the long-time chief of staff for John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia, is scheduled to join CUNA on May 1.

"John's long-time experience on the Hill has resulted in countless close associations with current and former members of Congress, on both sides of the Hill, and their staff members," said CUNA President Dan Mica in a statement.

Sagar has even more Hill experience than Magill, 25 years with congressional committees and 10 years as a lobbyist. He served as chief lobbyist for the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and as director of government affairs for the American Association of Homes for the Aging.

"Dean's background and understanding of federal credit union legislation is unmatched by any other national credit union trade lobbyist today," said Mica. "Now, he can use that know-how expressly for advancing credit union interests."

Sagar is scheduled to join CUNA on April 3.

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