Donkey Vs. Elephant? It Didn't Matter To CUs

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Whichever party was going to win control of Congress last week one thing was clear-a credit union majority would continue to rule Capitol Hill.

That's because of the great strides the credit union lobby has made over the past decade in getting credit union executives and volunteers to participate in the electoral process. This has allowed the credit union movement to reinforce old friends in Congress and build new supporters in both parties.

So CUNA is no longer content to just support its allies with political action money, but is continually expanding is activities, holding fundraisers, in-branch meetings with candidates, walking precincts and even financing independent advertisements on behalf of supporters.

Then there is a broad range of non-partisan electoral activities. Like Get-out-the-Vote initiatives. Efforts aimed at expanding voter registrations. And CUNA's non-partisan election schools, which help coach candidates-even those without a stake in credit union issues-on how to run a successful campaign. CUNA ran 14 election schools during the just-completed campaign, one of which helped Republican Betty Ireland craft a successful campaign for secretary of state of West Virginia.

Efforts such as these, according to CUNA's chief lobbyist John McKechnie, help build a credit union awareness throughout the electoral system. "We're looking at this entire process as a long-term investment in our political future," he said.

NAFCU has also taken major steps to expand its political campaign program over the past few years. NAFCU has more than tripled the size of its political action committee so that the PAC will spend almost $400,000 on campaign activities during the elections, more than twice as much as ever before. This enabled NAFCU to make contributions to open races in the House and Senate and to so-called leadership PACs, practices now accepted as critical to establishing a group as a player in Washington.

Both trade associations also extended their political activity this year with major presences at the two major party conventions; hosting receptions and wining and dining with prominent lawmakers in relationship building.

The growing political activism has also extended to individual credit unions, many of which hold their own "meet-and-greet" receptions with candidates, and as many as 20 of which have created their own PACs to contribute to federal campaigns.

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