Retirements Erase Two Biggest CU Supporters In The Senate

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WASHINGTON – Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who rewarded credit unions for their unprecedented support in his historic 2006 reelection with sponsorship of the CU Regulatory Improvements Act, announced this morning he will not be running for a fifth six-year term next year, the second major credit union supporter to announce his retirement from the Senate in recent days.

Lieberman’s announcement, coming on the heels of retirement plans for North Dakota’s Kent Conrad, another staunch credit union backer, will make it increasingly difficult next year for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate, where they currently hold a slim 51-to-47 majority, with two independents who normally vote with the Democrats, including Lieberman.

Lieberman shed his Democrat affiliation in the 2006 election when he lost his party’s primary despite an unprecedented independent campaign by CUNA, which spent almost $250,000 blanketing Connecticut with pro-Lieberman literature in the days leading up to the primary and general election. The then-three-term incumbent went on to win a fourth term as an independent, the first candidate in history to win a Senate seat after losing his party’s primary. The so-called independent campaign expenditure, which was secret to all but readers of the Credit Union Journal, was the largest ever attempted by CUNA to that time.

Lieberman subsequently acknowledged CUNA’s role during a speech at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference, noting neither he nor his staff knew of the CUNA mailing campaign. "I will say I owe you for your support," said Lieberman, who only learned of CUNA's mailings after the elections. "Without that support I wouldn't be here."

CUNA’s support was subsequently rewarded in the following Congress when Lieberman introduced a Senate version of the regulatory relief bill, better known as CURIA, which had languished five years in the House–even though Lieberman did not even sit on the Senate Banking Committee. The Connecticut senator later became a cosponsor of the bill to raise the member business loan limit on credit unions.

“The Senate is losing two titans,” said John Magill, chief lobbyist for CUNA. “Lieberman, of course, sponsored CURIA and has been an (member business loan) cosponsor.  It is always tough when you lose a champion.”

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