CUNA, Lawmakers Urge CUs To Stand Up And Be Heard

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Several Members of Congress joined CUNA CEO Dan Mica in urging credit unions to "stand up and make themselves heard" on Capitol Hill in a live, national webcast hosted by CUNA.

Credit unions cannot allow the bankers, who recently stepped up their grassroots efforts and rhetoric on the CU tax exemption, to define the battle field, said Mica and lawmakers who participated in the webcast.

While the "imminent banker threat" has been around for a long time, a number of recent events point to a renewed effort to go after the credit union tax exemption including the advent of the three leading banking trade groups forming a joint CU task force, a "bounty" being offered for "proof" that a CU has overstepped its statutory bounds and other grassroots efforts to lobby lawmakers on this topic.

While no elected officials have yet gone on the record supporting the bankers' position on this topic, several of CUNA's webcast guests suggested the bankers' arguments are not entirely falling on deaf ears.

"The banking lobby has been more effective beyond a level never seen before," said Mark Isakowitz, president of the lobbying firm of Fierce, Isakowitz and Blaylock, adding that CUs will have to "match the bankers' intensity with intensity and education on a personal level."

One thing banks have been able to cash in on is a long-standing infrastructure for lobbying Congress, as well as equally long-standing relationships with key players on Capitol Hill, according to U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY). Other lawmakers and credit unionists making an appearance on CUNA's webcast included U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Ohio CU League CEO Paul Mercer, and CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel.

Mica outlined five actions credit unions, working with their state leagues, can perform between now and the elections:

1. Do Project Zip Code, which matches CU members' zip codes (without using their names) to congressional districts.

2. Make sure members know their CU is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative that earns its tax exemption every day.

3. Educate Congress by meeting with lawmakersbefore the November elections.

4. Join CUNA's petition drive by having credit union members sign in support of maintaining the status of credit unions.

5. Take part in the national "Hike the Hill Month" in Washington, D.C. scheduled for September to bring CUs face-to-face with their lawmakers. Mica pointed out that more than a dozen credit union leagues already have made plans to be in Washington during that month.

CUNA reported more than 1,100 people registered to participate in the webcast, and an archived version of it is available to members at www.cuna.org.

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