House Members Support CU Tax Exemption

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In a major coup, more than two-thirds of the 32 House members from Texas, the second largest congressional delegation, have gone on record in support of the credit union tax exemption.

The Texas CU League, as part of its response to the banks' "Operation Credit Union," said last week it collected signatures of 22 of the state's House members, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay, endorsing the tax exemption.

The campaign to get as many congressmen on record on the tax issue is aimed at neutralizing the bankers' efforts to gain support for their efforts to repeal the tax exemption.

"We have a duty to let our members know where their Congressional representative stands on taxing credit unions, since a tax on credit unions is a tax on our members," said Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas league, as well as chairman of CUNA.

State credit union leagues around the country are also working to get their congressional representatives on record in support of the tax exemption, a record that would make it much more difficult for the banks to gain support for their efforts to repeal the exemption.

Endorsements Have 'Interesting Timing'

The Texas endorsements had an interesting timing, with CUNA paying an unusually large amount of attention to congressional races last month in the Lone Star State, where the controversial redistricting last year has left as many as a dozen races up for grabs.

CUNA made a total of $51,000 in contributions to 23 different of the state's 32 races, and has contributed more than $200,000 to Texas races in the current elections.

Officials claim there was no relationship between the timing of the campaign contributions and the endorsements collected by the Texas league, even though most of those endorsing the tax exemption were recent recipients of credit union PAC contributions.

The biggest contributions to Texas members last month went to: Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R) $5,000; Chet Edwards (D) $5,000; and Majority Leader Tom DeLay $5,000, including $2,000 that went to DeLay's leadership PAC, called Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, or ARMPAC.

Also receiving contributions were incumbent Republicans: Jeb Hensarling, $3,000; Lamar Smith, $2,000; John Carter, $1,000; Ron Paul, $2,500; Mac Thornberry, $1,000; Pete Sessions, $2,000; Ralph Hall, $2,000; John Culberson, $2,500; Joe Barton, 1,000. Incumbent Democrats also received donations: Lloyd Doggett, $3,000; Henry Bonilla, $2,000; Rueben Hinojosa, $2,500; Solomon Ortiz, $1,000; Kevin Brady, $1,500; Charles Gonzalez, $1,000. Newcomer Republicans Mike Conaway, and Michael McCaul each received $1,000 from CUNA, while Democrats Henry Cuellar ($2,500) and Al Green ($2,000) also received support from CUNA last month.

Also receiving large contributions form CUNA last month were: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Democratic candidate for an open House seat in Florida, $5,000; Allen Boyd, a Florida Democrat in a tight race for reelection, $4,500; Johnny Isakson, the Republican candidate for the Georgia Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Zell Miller, $5,000; Democratic Rep. Dale Kildee, of Michigan, $5,000 and Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, $5,000.

Also, Jon Porter, the credit union-backed freshman Republican House member from Nevada, $4,000; credit union champion Paul Kanjorski, the Pennsylvania Democrat, $4,000; and Keep Our Majority PAC, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's leadership PAC, $5,000; and newcomer Geoff Davis, a Republican candidate for the House from Kentucky, $5,000.

Separately, the Texas league unveiled a new feature on its website Monday that will allow people to make contributions to its political action committee online.

Prosecuters Zero In On DeLay Plot

The expansion of the credit union involvement in Texas comes as state prosecutors are zeroing in on what they allege was an illegal plot engineered by DeLay to funnel corporate money into state races, which resulted in Republicans winning control of the state House, and enabled them to redraw the state's 32 congressional districts.

Three DeLay aides were indicted last week and charged with laundering more than $1.5 million from one of DeLay's PACs, known as TRMPAC (for Texans for a Republican Majority), to the Republican National Committee, which then contributed the same amount to targeted state races.

Eight Companies Charged

Eight companies were charged with making donations to the scheme, which would violate a century-old state law prohibiting the use of corporate funds for legislative races.

The companies named in the indictment were: Sears, Roebuck and Co.; Bacardi USA Inc.; Cracker Barrel Old Country Store; Westar Energy Inc.; Diversified Collection Services Inc.; Williams Companies Inc.; Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care Corp.; and Questerra Corp.

DeLay, who consulted with state Republican officials over the redistricting, was not charged in the indictments. The controversial redistricting is expected to add as many as seven House seats in Texas to the Republican majority in Congress.

The House Ethics Committee has also been asked to look into the charges but has been dragging its feet over the potential involvement of one of the GOP leaders in Congress and isn't expected to take up the case until well after the elections. Democrats currently hold 17 of the 32 seats in the Texas delegation.

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