When credit union executives and lobbyists visit Capitol Hill to talk about credit union issues one thing they can bank on is a widespread knowledge of credit unions.
That's because more than half the Senate and the House claim membership in one credit union, and in some cases, two and even three.
At least 52 of the 100 senators, for example, are members of at least one credit union, according to financial disclosure statements reviewed by The Credit Union Journal.
U.S. Senate FCU, with its convenient branches in the Senate office buildings, claims the most members, with 34 senators disclosing some kind of account. Another 12 have accounts at Wright Patman Congressional FCU.
Wright-Pat, as might be expected, is also the favored credit union among House members, more than 120 of whom claim some kind of affiliation with the credit union.
The popularity among both Congress members and staffers on Capitol Hill is a great benefit to the credit union cause, according to lobbyists. "I think what it means is that they are first-hand witnesses of the friendly, consumer- oriented services that credit unions offer," said CUNA lobbyist Gary Kohn.
"The more they know about us, the more they're going to stand up for our ability to continue to do what we need to do," said Kohn.
"It helps in a way that when we go up there (to Capitol Hill) to talk about what credit unions are, that members and their staff already know," said NAFCU lobbyist Brad Thaler.
"They understand the nature of what credit unions are and what they do. It helps us to make our case for credit unions," added Thaler, who estimated that a majority of both members of Congress and their staff have some kind of relationship with a credit union.
"We hear, all the time, how someone got their first car loan or their first mortgage from their credit union," said Thaler. "Members and their staff make comments all the time about the positive relationship they have with their credit union."
Among the senators, Chris Dodd (D-CT) appears to have the most business with his credit union, four separate accounts, including two retirement accounts, at U.S. Senate FCU. Richard Durbin (D-IL) has accounts in three different credit unions: Senate FCU, Congressional FCU, and Credit Union 1, Rantoul, Ill. Other senators banking with multiple credit unions include: George Allen (R-VA), Virginia CU and Navy FCU; Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Senate FCU and Honolulu Federal Employees FCU; Robert Bennett (R-UT), Senate FCU and America First FCU; Tim Johnson (D-SD), Congressional FCU and Apple FCU; Charles Schumer (D-NY), Congressional FCU and Municipal CU; Craig Thomas (R-WY), Senate FCU and Arlington Schools FCU.
Even senators like Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and John Warner (R-VA), multi-millionares not usually associated with credit union membership, claim accounts with Senate FCU.
House Members Belong
Important House leaders also have financial ties with one or more credit unions. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) banks with Congressional FCU, as does Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, and Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley of Ohio.
Others with accounts at Wright-Pat include: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), Spencer Bachus, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions; former House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach (R- IA), and John Dingell (D-MI), the dean of the House.
Credit union champion Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), co-sponsor of HR 1151, has active accounts with three credit unions-Congressional FCU, Cross Valley CU and Choice One FCU-both in his home district of Wilkes-Barre, Penn.
Just as interesting is those members who do not list active credit union accounts in their financial disclosures. Among them are leading credit union advocate Steve LaTourette (R-OH), the other co-sponsor of HR 1151; and Shelley Capito (R-WV), who has emerged as a major friend of credit unions by helping push the credit union provisions in the regulatory relief bill; Ed Royce (R-CA), another legislative champion for the credit union cause.; and Barney Frank (D- MA), the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.