CUNA Helps Replenish Parties' Coffers With Annual Donations

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WASHINGTON - CUNA made its annual contributions to the two major political parties this month, including the senate and congressional campaign committees, a total of $90,000 to both the Democrats and Republicans.

CUNA makes the maximum allowable $15,000 a year to the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee, and the governors' committees of each party, a total of $240,000 each campaign cycle.

CUNA said its growing political action committee completed its most successful campaign cycle ever, having raised a new high of $3.7 million and contributed about $3.3 million to candidates and their parties. That includes $1.9 million raised in 2006, a new record.

Campaign funding activities in the last elections included an unprecedented initiative for independent campaign expenditures for advertising and mailings on behalf of candidates-independently of the candidates' campaign. The effort paid off in a big way in the case of Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary, despite CUNA spending $160,000 to blanket the state with pro-Lieberman mailings just before the vote, then won the general election as an Independent, with the help of another $60,000 mailing from CUNA.

CUNA and the leagues also set a new high for contributions to so-called leadership PACs, funds created by key lawmakers that can be used to bolster their allies. CUNA and the leagues contributed almost $300,000 to congressional leadership PACs during the 2005-2006 elections, up more than 20% from the previous election cycle.

The increase in campaign funding through CUNA has made the credit union group one of the most prolific trade associations on Capitol Hill, in terms of campaign contributions. The credit union interest group trails only the PACs for the National Association of Realtors, National Association of Beer Wholesalers, National Association of Homebuilders, National Association of Auto Dealers, Association of Trial Lawyers, and the American Bankers Association.

"All in all, we're very pleased with the growth of our PAC," said Trey Hawkins, political director for CUNA. "It's a reflection of the people at the grassroots level around the country that most of our money was raised in small contributions." He said the most recent study showed that the average contribution to the credit union PAC was just $22.50.

But just as importantly, in terms of raising the profile of credit unions in the fundraising arena, is the number of fundraisers CUNA, the leagues and credit unions helped organize, positioning credit unions as a prime source of campaign funding. According to Hawkins, Credit Union House, the facility built by CUNA and its state leagues a few blocks from the Capitol, held more than 70 events, most of them fundraisers, over the past two years.

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