John U. Barker, a credit union executive in upstate New York, has made a lot of friends since writing about his opposition to the credit union bill.
Most of them, however, are bankers.
Shortly after Mr. Barker wrote a July 22 column for Credit Union Times denouncing the bill, elated publicists at bank trade groups here began faxing copies to reporters.
"We couldn't have said it better ourselves," said Monique E. Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Independent Bankers Association of America.
"The media was not really hearing from the full industry," said Virginia McGuire, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association. "You were hearing what the credit union public relations machine wanted you to hear."
Much like the bank lobby, Mr. Barker prefers credit unions to be small, simple, and conservative. His own-$23 million-asset Hudson River Teachers Federal Credit Union, Peekskill, N.Y.-does not offer credit cards, ATMs, or interest-bearing checking accounts.
What Hudson River does offer is higher interest on deposits and lower rates on basic loans than most other credit unions and banks in its area. That, he said, is what credit unions were created to do.
It is not the way the industry is going, however. Instead, Mr. Barker asserted, credit unions unwisely are trying to compete with banks. At the same time, he said, regulators at the National Credit Union Administration are forcing them to compete against huge, member-gobbling credit unions whose fields of membership often encompass an entire city, county, or metropolitan area.
The legislation that President Clinton is about to sign into law will let occupation-based credit unions accept members from unrelated companies with fewer than 3,000 employees.
"A license to self-destruct" is how Mr. Barker described the measure. "Most of us will not survive."
It is easy to understand the bank lobby's delight with Mr. Barker's article, which not only tipped sacred credit union cows but did so quite colorfully. He called the credit union bill a "Trojan horse," accused the NCUA of using "Kevorkian tactics," and even declared himself a latter-day "Cassandra," ready to be pelted with rocks by his peers.
Daniel A. Mica, president of the Credit Union National Association, was not so amused.
"The folks who try to come up with ideal or even nostalgic approaches often end up being beat about the head with their own words," he said. "It's nonsense that they (the bank lobby) would send out a letter by one credit union member and imply that it is somehow reflective of the feeling of the entire movement."
Mr. Barker denied being used.
"I would like to see something jar the hell out of other credit unions' thinking," he said in an interview this week. "And if it has to be the banks' using my article, so be it."