CUNA, NAFCU Triumph At Democratic Convention

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The Democratic National Convention was a great success for the two credit union trade groups, CUNA and NAFCU. As their participants like to say, the expanded presence at the first of the two quadrennial political conventions illustrated that the credit union lobby has become a player in both the Capitol and in the various state houses across the country.

The presence among the Democrats reminded people of the traditional credit union constituency: blue-collar workers. As the data corroborates, the typical credit union member continues to be a union worker, teacher, or an immigrant-working-class folks.

So it was that the credit union lobbyists made their way around the convention to meet with the various groups, renewing old ties and working to solidify newer ones. These different groups made receptive audiences for the recent focus of the credit union agenda on immigrants, underserved communities and financial literacy.

But an observer couldn't help notice a growing disconnect between credit unions and their traditional allies in the Democratic Party. Part of this was because, no matter what happens in November in the presidential and senate races, the Republicans are almost certain to retain control of the House, where almost all legislation originates. Despite lots of optimism among the Dems about the presidential contest and even the Senate, there was no pretense about their chances of winning back control of the House. That means the Democrats will have minimal control of the legislative agenda in the next Congress, even if they win the White House and the Senate.

That's the main reason the credit union lobby has moved much closer to the Republicans over the last few congresses. They know if they want to get their agenda on the table they have to build ties to the Republican leadership. And they have. Leaders in both the House and Senate recognize the credit union lobby as a growing one, in terms of both political muscle and popularity.

It has also created somewhat of a disconnect, from the perspective of one observer, as the typical credit union member remains a blue-collar, working-class type, who traditionally affiliates with the Democrats. At the same time, the typical credit union CEO, who control the agenda for credit unions, is increasingly a white-collar type, and more likely to vote Republican.

One of the developments feeding this trend is the growing influx of bankers into the credit union movement. This is both good and bad, as many sources have indicated. The good part is that the bankers have brought more professionalism to the management of credit unions, helping boost the bottom lines, in many cases. The bad part is, that, in some cases, this has diluted the credit union philosophy of "not-for-profit, but for service."

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