Shot Fired On Giffords Is A Blow For Arizona CUs

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TUCSON, Ariz. — The tragic shooting here that claimed six lives and injured 14 people is a blow to credit unions in Arizona.

Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona's 8th District, has been in Tucson's University Medical Center since she was shot Jan. 8. Austin De Bey, VP of government affairs for the Arizona CU League, said the league has had a relationship with Rep. Giffords for a decade, when she first was elected to an office. "I have worked with her since 2004, when she was a state senator," he recalled. In 2005 she resigned her seat to run for U.S. Congress and the League endorsed her.

"Most recently, we worked with her on the interchange part of the Dodd-Frank Act," De Bey continued. "She signed a letter opposing it. She has been a great [lawmaker] to work with on our issues and she is one of the most accessible members of Congress."

When members of the Arizona CU League were in Washington, D.C., last spring along with representatives from several Arizona credit unions, the group had a meeting set up with Giffords. Instead of a standard meet-and-greet at her office, De Bey said Giffords made arrangements to meet at a coffee shop.

"It was one of the best meetings I've had with a lawmaker. She makes herself accessible for any of her constituents, including credit unions."

Giffords was shot while hosting a "Congress On Your Corner" event at a local supermarket. Residents were invited to attend and ask questions of the Congresswoman on any topic relating to the federal government. On Giffords' House webpage, the last Twitter message she sent prior to the shooting states, "My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later."

The motive of the gunman, identified by authorities as Jared Loughner, remains unclear as of press time. Loughner, 22, is a Tucson resident.

Personal Request For Comments

During her current term, Rep. Giffords has been seeking comments from her district on issues, De Bey reported. He said whenever there is a financial services issue, the Arizona CU League receives a personal request from Giffords for comments on how it will affect CUs. "It is a continuing dialog that we really appreciate," he said.

Recently, the league has been working with CUNA and the World Council of Credit Unions, and had been planning on inviting Giffords to speak at a WOCCU luncheon, De Bey lamented.

"It has been a tough few days here. Many of our credit union leaders network with her and know her. She and her family have been in the community for a long time, having run a small business and then being a legislator. She is very closely tied to the community, so it is a tragedy all the way around."

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