As the top lobbyist for the largest credit union trade group, Chuck Zuver is the industry's heaviest hitter in Washington.
And that's saying something. The credit union industry is one of Capitol Hill's most formidable lobbying forces.
The industry's collective lobbying muscle has stymied efforts to tax credit unions and to bring the National Credit Union Administration into regulatory consolidation plans. It also helped keep credit unions relatively unscathed from the sweeping bank reform legislation of the 1980s and 1990s.
Perhaps its finest hour was Operation Grass Roots in 1991. The Credit Union National Association gathered 6.5 million signatures and staged a rally on Capitol Hill to maintain the NCUA as an independent regulator.
But Mr. Zuver isn't resting on past successes, he said, because new challenges face the industry.
One is a wide-ranging probe of the industry by House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez. The review was sparked by U.S. Central Credit Union's $255 million investment in a troubled Spanish bank. The Texas Democrat is expected to hold a series of hearings on the industry later this summer.
"I'm concerned," Mr. Zuver said. "But if we are doing the job I like to think we're doing, the hearings will benefit us. If the hearings uncover problems, we'll be able to step in quickly and correct them."
A long-range challenge is that as credit unions grow larger, increasingly they will face issues as employers.
"With health reform, and at some point pension reform, credit unions are going to be affected as institutions," he said. "And I think a lot of small credit unions are going to have problems."
Mr. Zuver is an old Washington hand. Before joining CUNA, he was the senior legislative counsel for the American Bankers Association.
He had also been legislative assistant and counsel for Arizona Democratic Sen. Carl Hayden, D-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee during the Kennedy-Johnson years. Earlier, he was a staff assistant to Lyndon B. Johnson when he was a senator and later vice president.
Mr. Zuver spends considerable time outside the Beltway, speaking at trade group meetings across the country. To ensure that credit unions maintain their political muscle, he encourages credit union officials to get involved -- and get their members involved -- in political campaigns.
If credit unions wait for politicians to get into office before they approach them with their concetus, they get "good government," Zuver says. "But if you get involved early, you get access."
Executive vice president, director of governmental affairs
Credit Union National Association
805 15th St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, D. C. 20005-2207