WASHINGTON - In an Aug. 4 letter to Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, the Credit Union National Association defended its decision to change course and oppose a bill he introduced to tighten federal regulation of state- chartered institutions.

Ralph Swoboda, president of the industry's largest trade group, blames the reversal on two parties: the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors for whipping up opposition and National Credit Union Administration Chairman Norman E. D'Amours and his unpopular policies.

"There is a considerable lack of faith in the agency by the credit union movement," the letter said. "Unfortunately, any expansion of agency authority at the expense of state regulation will not be well received at this time."

Until earlier this month, the Madison, Wis., trade group supported a bill the New York Republican introduced in June and tried to tinker with it. Under pressure from affiliated state leagues that opposed the bill, the trade group reversed its position.

The switch angered Senate Banking Committee aides who had worked on the bill.

"The letter is defensive and a bit apologetic," said one committee aide. "It illustrates lack of leadership industry leaders.

This is a mild bill from the industry's friends in Congress."

Trade group officials said they were reluctant to anger Sen. D'Amato. And Sen. D'Amato entered a letter from CUNA backing the bill into the Congressional Record, making it more difficult for the trade group to withdraw its endorsement.

But it was unable to withstand state-level complaints, which Mr. Swoboda claims were raised by the supervisors group.

"An aggressive campaign against the bill by another organization has fueled the concern about the measure's impact on the dual chartering system and states' rights, in spite of our efforts to explain its actual impact and the degree to which you have been working to improve the bill even further," Mr. Swoboda wrote.

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