LOCAL CUS HOPE TO RESCUE CONGRESSIONAL CHAMPION
WILKES BARRE, Penn.-Area credit unions last week had launched another major campaign in the final days of the elections to turn out voters in hopes of saving their endangered congressional champion, Democrat Paul Kanjorski, as millions of dollars in campaign funds pour in from outside groups working to oust the 13-term House member.
Volunteers from Choice One FCU, Cross Valley FCU, Incol FCU, Tobyhanna Army Depot and other local credit unions-who helped save Kanjorski in 2008 against the same opponent, Republican Lou Barletta-have been going door-to-door, manning phone banks and urging neighbors to get out and vote. The Pennsylvania CU Association is financing direct mail to all CU members in Pennsylvania's 11th, district, touting Kanjorski's long-time advocacy of CU issues in Congress. NAFCU and CUNA also plan to lend last-minute assistance to the campaign.
The on-the-ground assistance will be critical to saving the chief credit union ally on Capitol Hill, who trails his Republican opponent going into the campaign's final days, according to local campaign experts. "Now it all comes down to whether the Democrats can mobilize the vote. That's what it's all about," said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Center for Public Policy, who conducted the latest poll on the race finding Barletta up by seven points.
"If Kanjorski can get the voters out in Lackawanna (County) he probably wins. If not, he loses," Madonna said. He noted that polling in 2008 when Kanjorski beat Barletta by 52% to 48%, showed Barletta ahead in the days before the election. But the district's overwhelming vote for the Democratic presidential ticket pulled Kanjorski past the finish line, he maintained. "If he wins this time, I don't think it will be because of him-the Democrats are doing everything they can on behalf of him," Madonna said.
To win, Kanjorski will have to overcome millions of dollars in negative ads financed by outside groups, like the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has spent about $1 million to on Kanjorski attack ads, and right-leaning groups like Citizens United, American Crossroads, a group headed by former Bush campaign director Karl Rove, along with other groups.
Kanjorski has also been the beneficiary of funds from outside the district, including more than $1 million from the National Association of REALTORS and $275,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with more spending expected in the campaign's final days.
Local CUs are poised to turn out voters, according to Michael Wishnow, director of public affairs for the Pennsylvania CU Association. "It's the same group that has always been supportive of him (Kanjorski)," said Wishnow.
CUNA SAYS IT DIDN'T HAVE INFLUENCE OVER U.S. CENTRAL
WASHINGTON-CUNA disputed that its numerous ties with U.S. Central FCU amounted to control of the board of the one-time central bank for credit unions, which was liquidated Oct. 1.
"CUNA had one vote on the board of U.S. Central," CUNA General Counsel Eric Richard stated. Richard denied that a second seat on the nine-member U.S. Central board reserved for the CUNA-affiliated state leagues gave it controlling influence on the board, and said that numerous ties between the two organizations, such as an ownership stake by CUNA and its affiliates, joint lobbying or even a shared Washington, D.C., office, did not amount to a controlling influence of U.S. Central, which was chartered in 1974 by CUNA and affiliates.
CUNA's response comes after a report issued by the Inspector General of NCUA concluded the main cause of failure of the one-time $52-billion corporate was lax oversight by the management and board of U.S. Central as it piled up more than a third of all of its assets in risky mortgage-backed securities.
The nine-member board, according to CUNA's Richard, was comprised of seven representatives from U.S. Central's 27 corporate members, with seats reserved for a CUNA representative and a representative of the leagues. CUNA's COO, John Franklin, served as the CUNA representative for the final nine years of the U.S. Central Board, according to Richard. In addition, CUNA's new CEO, Bill Cheney, served on both the boards of U.S. Central and of WesCorp FCU at one time.
CUNA's Franklin and the other eight U.S. Central directors were removed in March 2009 when NCUA took the failing corporate under conservatorship. The directors and managers have been charged with fraud in a civil lawsuit brought by one of the corporate members, Corporate America CU, and as likely targets in a directors and officers liability insurance claim by NCUA, which is seeking to recover as much as $7 billion of losses on the corporate failure, the biggest ever in credit union history.
CUNA's Richard downplayed CUNA's role in the governance of U.S. Central, noting that close interlocks with U.S. Central-at one point the president of CUNA was also the CEO of U.S. Central-were severed by NCUA more than a decade ago. He also insisted that the other directors on the U.S. Central board, the corporate CEOs, were notorious for their independence and could not be considered under the sway of CUNA.