Thousands of credit union advocates from across the country descended on Washington this week for the 2018 Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference. From high-profile keynote speakers to lessons in advocacy, new ways to get the word out about CUs and presidential meet-ups, here's a sampling of some of what took place.
Reunited and it feels so good
CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle, left, got to meet up with his old boss, former President George W. Bush, who offered a keynote address during the 2018 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington. Nussle, a former Iowa congressman, served as Bush's budget director from 2007-2009.
“Gaining insight from our past can help guide us moving forward," Nussle said in a statement. “It was truly my pleasure to discuss the current state of the Nation and the power of collaboration and public service with President Bush as these principles are the core of the credit union philosophy. This has been a record setting GAC and CUNA is honored to host a high caliber speaker such as President Bush.”
NCUA Board Member Rick Metsger welcomes credit union advocates to the “Twilight Zone” that is the nation’s capital. Noting that neither the Washington Wizards (NBA), Redskins (NFL), Capitols (NHL) nor Nationals (MLB) has ever won a conference championship, Metsger noted there’s another group in D.C. that has gotten used to not winning. “The banking lobby still hasn’t won its tax-the-heck-out-of-credit-unions competition,” he said, wondering when they might finally quit and follow in the footsteps of the Washington Generals – the much-beleaguered team that faced sure defeat every time it goes up against the Harlem Globetrotters – who eventually decided to quit in 2015.
"We’re excited,” said Nussle. “We had a great meeting today. It’s a meeting that’s been long in the making. We contacted the Trump administration while they were still in transition to talk about how credit unions could come down and visit Trump. It helps when you have 5,200 credit union advocates in town to get people’s attention. We were very pleased that the president invited us down to talk about that."
Nussle is joined by some of the other attendees from the meeting, including (from left to right), Maurice Smith, president and CEO of Local Government Employees Credit Union and CUNA chairman; Lisa Ginter, president and CEO, CommunityAmerica Credit Union and a CUNA board member; Mary Ott Wood, president and CEO, Florida West Coast Credit Union.
CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan talks with U.S. Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) and Mark Amodei (R-NV) about their bipartisan effort to amend an appropriations bill to strip out language that would have put the National Credit Union Administration under the congressional appropriations process. Speaking in front of the Governmental Affairs Conference audience, Amodei said it was an easy decision for him to sponsor the CU-sought amendment. “You’re not asking for a favor when you’ve got good facts to back it up,” he said, adding that it’s a pleasure for a legislator to help an industry that knows how to help itself. “We asked you to mobilize the troops, you did it.”
Aguilar, who was a credit union executive prior to running for Congress, said in addition to the way credit unions activated their grassroots to support the amendment, the other key factor was the strong bipartisan support that helped move the ball forward—and that bipartisanship, he said, is something the nation needs to see more of.
“It happens in small ways and it needs to happen in bigger ways, too,” he said. “Now that we’ve got a relationship, it will be easier for me to approach [Aguilar] when there’s something I think we can work together on. This happens more than you realize, and I wish the American public got to see more of it.”
Amodei agreed. “You know, some say we’re all going to hell, and it’s just a question of how fast and whether we’re going through the front door, the back door or the side door,” he said. “Well, as long as your first move is, ‘the other side sucks’ – it’s no wonder everyone hates us.”
'Trust the research' on new awareness campaign
Xceed Financial Federal Credit Union CEO Teresa Freeborn, who also chairs CUNA’s Credit Union Awareness Advisory Committee, warned that credit union executives might get a little uncomfortable the first time they see the new awareness campaign the group worked on with BrandCap and GPG. She challenged her credit union colleagues to let go of their preconceived notions and to remember that they, after all, are not the target audience for this awareness initiative: non-members are. “Remember, we’re not trying to move you,” she exhorted. “Trust the research.”
For example, credit unions have proudly trumpeted that they are local institutions, but that message has unwittingly been interpreted by many non-members to mean that they are only able to do business locally, which is a problem when people want to be confident that they can get service – and, more importantly, their own money – anywhere they go. The campaign, she said, is specifically designed to debunk the two big myths that prevent people from joining a credit union: that they can’t join and they only do business locally.
Utah Credit Union Association President/CEO Scott Simpson (at right) facilitates a panel comprised of political strategists Barry Jackson and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). Having served as chief of staff to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), as well as a senior staff member in President George W. Bush’s White House, said that while he expects to see Republicans lose up to a dozen seats in the House in the 2018 elections, he believes the GOP will maintain the majority in both the House and Senate. For his part, Begich agreed Republicans will keep the Senate but offered odds of 55/45 that the Democrats will win the House.
LSCU hikes the Hill
Patrick La Pine (second from right), president and CEO the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (whcih serves CUs in Alabama and Florida) thanks a staffer from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis' office for the legislator's support of the credit union tax exemption throughout the tax overhaul legislation.
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