To prove credit union membership limits are too lax, Banc One lobbyist Steven Stivers set out April 2 to see how many of the nonprofit institutions he could join in one day. Of the five Ohio credit unions he approached, three made him a member even though he had no ties to their primary membership groups.

Two institutions, First Service Federal Credit Union in Groveport and Columbus Metro Federal Credit Union, said Mr. Stivers was eligible because he is a member of the Army National Guard.

Telhio Credit Union, Columbus, added him to its list of 44,000 members even though he has no ties to any of its 139 membership groups. To admit Mr. Stivers, Telhio enrolled him in a football booster club for a local high school. The school was nowhere near Mr. Stivers' home, and the credit union paid the booster club's $5 dues.

"I was a member in 15 minutes," Mr. Stivers said.

The escapade, part of Columbus-based Banc One's effort to fight federal legislation loosening credit union membership rules, was given front-page play in a local business newspaper.

Seattle-based Continental Savings Bank, still disappointed that legislation enacted last year cut it out of a big thrift industry tax break, has hired lobbyist Lee Peckarsky to fight for a change in the law, according to federal lobbying records.

The law, which took effect last August, saved the thrift industry $3 billion in taxes on bad-debt reserves taken before 1988. It was passed to build thrift industry support for a merger of the bank and thrift charter-a move that would otherwise force savings associations to pay taxes on the reserves.

But the deal was a disappointment for Continental, which was founded in 1986 and has few reserves that qualify for the break.

At Continental's urging, Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., asked lawmakers last June to postpone passage of the bad-debt provision so he could work out a plan that would let Continental delay its tax payments. But congressional leaders were unwilling to reopen debate on the bill.

Mr. Peckarsky is former staff director of the House Banking Committee and was chief lobbyist for the National Council of Savings Institutions.

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