Senators Are Banking on Credit Unions for Fifth Year in a Row

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For at least the fifth year in a row, the most popular financial institution for U.S. senators is not a bank, but a credit union.

More than a third of the 100 senators, 43, have one or more accounts with the U.S. Senate FCU, according to financial disclosures filed with the Senate last week and reviewed by The Credit Union Journal.

In fact, more than half of all senators, a total of 53, have an account with at least one credit union. And the second most popular financial institution is also a credit union, Wright-Patman Congressional FCU, where 11members of the Senate have one or more active accounts.

The next most popular financial institutions among senators are Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank, each with 10 senators having active accounts.

The overriding factor attracting senators to credit union members appears to be the convenience, according to people familiar with the issue, including staffers, many of whom also use one of the two Capitol Hill credit unions. Senate FCU, for instance, has branches in the lobby of the Hart Office building, where a third of senators have their offices, and also in the nearby Government Account Office. Congressional FCU also has several offices on Capitol Hill.

The popularity of credit unions on the Hill also helps the credit union lobby, by making members and their staff knowledgeable about both the good financial deal and quality service credit unions provide, according to John McKechnie, chief lobbyist for CUNA. "It helps us get a positive reception on Capitol Hill, in part, due to the good service they get from their credit union," he said.

"I think the credit union movement ought to feel fortunate that we have two very high quality credit unions serving members of Congress and their staff," said McKechnie.

The wide use of credit unions on Capitol Hill, said Bill Donovan, chief lobbyist for NAFCU, illustrates that members of Congress are attracted to financial service providers for the same features that attract regular people. "It's not surprising that people elected to represent us in Congress want the same kind of high level of service as people across the United States," said Donovan.

The financial disclosures show that credit union membership is bipartisan in nature and attracts both wealthy members, like millionaire Sens. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL), Senate FCU and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate FCU and less affluent members like Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Congressional FCU and Coastway CU and Trent Lott (R-MS), Senate FCU.

Even multi-millionaire Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has an active account with Senate FCU.

Some senators, like Joseph Biden (D-DE), have loans with their credit union, as well as savings accounts. Some have multiple accounts, like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). who has a money market account, a certificate of deposit, and a Gold Service Checking account, with Senate FCU.

Several senators have active accounts with several credit unions, like Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senate FCU, Congressional FCU and Credit Union One; Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senate FCU, Congressional FCU and Capitol FCU; Charles Schumer (D-NY), Congressional FCU and Municipal CU; Tim Johnson (D-SD), Congressional FCU and Apple FCU; Michael Crapo (R-ID), Senate FCU and Medical & Professional FCU; Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Senate FCU and Honolulu FCU; George Allan (R-VA), Virginia CU and Navy FCU and Reed, Congressional FCU and Coastway CU.

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