Indiana Bank Attacks CU Patriotism

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Credit union officials in Indiana, insulted by recent bank-sponsored advertisements that attacked the patriotism of organizations that are tax-exempt, responded quickly with ammunition of their own.

Frances Slocum Bank sponsored two separate ads that appeared in four newspapers in Peru, Wabash and Kokomo, Ind. featuring photos of American flags and fighter jets and proclaimed, "Freedom isn't free.'' Copy suggests that patriotism is measured by an organization's federal tax paying status, stating, "Do you realize that if you paid $1 in federal income tax you paid more than all the credit unions put togeteher in the United States?"

John McKenzie, president of the Indiana league, called the implication that credit unions are not patriotic a "new low'' for the bankers and doubted they would accomplish any intended objectives. "It just upset members,'' he said. "As far as any other impact, it will probably work against the bankers with the legislators.''

Immediately after the ads appeared, credit union leaders responded with letters to the editors of area newspapers. League staff supplied member CUs with talking points, a letter template and a patriotic advertisement promoting credit unions and their people- not-profits philosophy.

As banks keep trying to point out the likenesses of the two industries, McKenzie said, this type of attack only proves how different they are. "Credit unions have never stooped to this.''

In a letter to the editors of several newspapers that ran the bank ads, McKenzie said, "As we all know, credit union leaders and members are among the most patriotic groups of business professionals in the country.'' He added that he was particularly incensed by by the theme of the ads.

"It is very distasteful for a bank to try to exploit the current circumstance of our nation being at war to promote its own business profit motives through a negative ad attacking credit unions.''

Other CU leaders made similar statements in separate letters.

"I . . . have the right to say how reprehensible I think it is for a bank to wrap itself in the flag and come right up to the line of truth telling and attack the little guy ," wrote Mike Moran, Ret. Lt. Col. (USAF) and board member of the Sagamore Community FCU in a letter that ran in the Peru Tribune.

"I am doubly offended,'' said Sagamore's Board Chairman Paul Wyman in his letter that appeared in the same newspaper. "When I was in Saudi Arabia, Sagamore FCU bent over backward to assist me while I was serving my country and protecting the very freedom they say credit unions aren't supporting."

Officials at Beacon CU paid to have the two league ads appear in newspapers within the CU's FOM that did not carry the bank ads.

"We are not inclined to send them our advertising business because of their decisions to run the bank ads," said Ryan Showley, VP of marking and information technology.

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