Former Bank Lobbyists Happily Find Image Is No Problem in This Business

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WASHINGTON - Credit union lobbyists have an advantage over banking lobbyists: People of all backgrounds and political beliefs like credit unions.

In fact, a number of Credit Union National Association lobbyists come from the other side, having worked for banking groups.

Jeanne-Marie Murphy came from the Independent Bankers Association of America. She says CUNA provides "the best of both worlds."

Because credit unions are financial institutions, "your prior life as a financial institution lobbyist - as a banking lobbyist - is helpful," she notes. In addition, "most individuals you talk to like credit unions."

Charles O. Zuver, himself a former lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, heads CUNA's 31-member Washington office. Although he directs the trade group's lobbying policies and maintains contacts on Capitol Hill, Mr. Zuver has cut back on roaming the corridors of Congress.

He leaves most of the legwork to Ms. Murphy, who's put in 12 years at CUNA, and three other lobbyists: Gary Kohn, another former IBAA lobbyist; Elizabeth Wirick, a former investigator for the Senate Committee on Aging; and the staff's most recent addition, Laricke Blanchard, a former aide to Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y.

Another division - regulatory affairs - lobbies the National Credit Union Administration and other federal agencies.

"Not only do we react to proposals from the agencies, we advocate changes that would benefit credit unions," said Kathleen Thompson, senior vice president of regulatory affairs.

Working under Ms. Thompson are Mary Dunn, who specializes in consumer and payment service issues, Sarah Cummer, who works on lending issues, and Colleen Kelly, who handles employment issues.

Brenda Seipel Jacob tracks state-level trends and is a liaison with state leagues, which are becoming a more important lobbying force due to the anti-Beltway spirit in the nation.

The Georgia Credit Union League, headed by Michael J. Mercer, bears out the importance of the state-level organizations: the state group has a close relationship with Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who ascended to speakership of the House this year.

Money is becoming an increasingly important part of electoral politics, and CUNA is well represented by its campaign contribution arm, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council. Headed by John J. McKechnie 3d, the PAC is one of the 100 largest in the country.

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