In an effort to win more legislative battles, the Ohio Bankers Association is resorting to guerrilla tactics.
The bank trade group has organized the "OBA Militia," a network of 400 bankers the association can summon when it wants to lobby federal or state lawmakers on an industry issue.
"These are all volunteers who are saying, 'You can call on us when you need us,'" said C. Daniel DeLawder, association president.
The association decided to form its militia after the credit union industry outmaneuvered bankers this year in Congress, said Mr. DeLawder, chief executive officer of Park National Bank in Newark, Ohio.
Congress gave credit unions the right to expand their memberships after employees and customers inundated lawmakers with letters, phone calls, and personal visits.
"We need to take our activism to a higher level," said Mr. DeLawder, who is referred to as "Uncle Dan" in the OBA Militia's recruiting materials. "Banks are not given the respect they deserve."
The Ohio campaign comes as the American Bankers Association is pushing its state affiliates to strengthen their local lobbying networks. The ABA has formed a task force to develop more effective lobbying techniques, said Edward L. Yingling, its chief lobbyist in Washington.
The ABA plans to identify a group of bankers in each state who have agreed to deliver the ABA's messages.
In the past, ABA staff members or state affiliate executives have contacted bankers and asked them to write or visit their member of Congress on a specific issue. Under the proposed system, designated home-state bankers would call their peers and ask them to participate.
"We will have bankers talking to bankers, asking, 'Have you sent your letter?' or 'Have you made your calls?'" Mr. Yingling explained.
The ABA also wants bankers to develop long-term relationships with members of Congress. Mr. Yingling said he hopes lawmakers will respond more favorably when bankers are lobbying on an industry issue.
"We need broader and deeper participation," he said.
Bankers are heeding the call to action.
Stanley N. Pontius, president and chief executive officer of First Financial Bancorp in Hamilton, Ohio, said the banking industry's defeat on the credit union legislation prompted him to enlist in the OBA Militia.
"We have more incentive to talk to lawmakers directly and not financially support them or support them at the polls if they're not sympathetic," he said. "Our message coming from the grass roots should have more of a positive impact over time."