Other notes from CUNA's GAC.
* A member of the Qatar Press Agency crashed the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards Dinner, the signature black-tie event that helps kick off CUNA's GAC. The reporter claimed to have checked with CUNA before the soiree to ensure he could attend, but no one from CUNA at the party that night could remember such a conversation. Rather than force the reporter to leave, CUNA invited him to stick around. It was unclear why the Qatar Press Agency was interested in the event.
* A group of credit union representatives from the South American country of Suriname were squired around GAC by North Carolina's credit unions, which have developed a partnership with Suriname. Four of the group were from the Godo and De Schakel Credit Unions-the two largest in the country, serving more than 5% of the entire population, while there were also two representatives from the Central Bank of Suriname, which is writing a new law and regulations for credit unions. During GAC, the group attended Congressional visits with House Banking Committee member Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) and International Relations Committee members Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Cass Ballenger (R-NC). Anthony LaCreta of NCUA also hosted a two-day visit to the agency, where the group was given briefings.
* The repeal of the "death tax" could turn out to be a "be careful what you wish for" situation, according to U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO). In his remarks at CUNA's GAC, Blunt noted that the repeal of the death tax, as written, only goes through 2009, making that a potentially dangerous year for parents in a position to leave significant inheritances to their children, he joked. "2009 could be the year of 'Throw Mama From The Train,'" he quipped.
* The Omni Shoreham Hotel was one of the many "annex" hotels used by CUNA-ites during the GAC, in addition to the main site at the Washington Hilton. But if credit unionists staying at the Omni felt their ears burning from time to time, it could be because the National Coalition for Community Reinvestment-the community advocacy group that is suing the NCUA over its repeal of the Community Action Plan-was hosting its own meeting at the hotel at the same time.
* Admittedly nervous at speaking before the large crowd, Jerrie Lattimore, NASCUS chair and administrator of the North Carolina Credit Union Division, told GAC attendees, "My husband told me to imagine you're all naked, but if the man in the third row would please put his pants back on, I'd feel a lot more comfortable."
* Accepting his lifetime achievement award at the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards dinner, Richard Johnson, CEO of WesCorp and a long-time career Marine, said, "When I first started out in credit unions 30 years ago, I didn''t think that civilians really ever did anything worthwhile." Johnson, who explained that a Marine never stops being a Marine, said he had a lot to learn in his civilian afterlife. "A wise man told me to hire subordinates who are smarter than me. I had no trouble finding people smarter than me. I did, however, have a hard time finding subordinates." And what has learned after 30 years in credit unions? "I have learned that civilians, particularly if they work in credit unions, do accomplish worthwhile things after all."
* In her remarks before CUNA's GAC, new NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz opened by offering some personal biographical data not found in her official biography, which she referred to as the "juicy tidbits." Born in the Bronx, Matz moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where she has lived and worked since 1973. Ironically, the Democratic appointee to the NCUA board began her career working for a Republican congressmen. With ties to Virginia, Wyoming, Kansas, South Dakota and even Louisiana, Matz met her husband while she worked for a U.S. Representative and he worked for a U.S. Senator. "If you know anything about the Hill, you know that Senate staffers tend to look down on House staffers," she said, adding that fortunately didn't keep the two from finding common ground.
* In what may be the first comparison of credit unions to tobacco companies, U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) noted the job credit unions are doing with youth financial literacy efforts saying, "It's like the tobacco industry, if you catch 'em early, they're addicted for life."
* Noting how busy both the House and Senate have been investigating the Enron scandal, House Financial Services Committee Chair Michael Oxley (R-OH) quipped, "They are going to create a 24-hour cable news show just to carry congressional hearings on Enron." Indeed, Oxley continued, "When given a choice between appearing before Congress or on the show 'Fear Factor,' it's clear where Ken Lay would rather be," and concluded that Lay "decided he would rather be judged by Olympic ice skating judges than by Congress."
Later, he added, "Consumers are saving more money than they are borrowing, and that's got to be good for all of us."