Support Those Who Support CUs

PAC contributions help CU friends win or hold onto their elective offices.

December 14, 2012
We’re now in the thick of the election season. All of us—CUNA, leagues, and credit unions—remain focused and energized toward one goal: supporting and electing candidates who are friends of credit unions.

In that context, some prefer to focus solely on the money we raise and contribute in support of these candidates.

Make no mistake: Money is a critical element in today’s political environment, but there’s much more to it than just dollars.

At the end of July (and at press time), our contributors to candidates for this election “cycle” (meaning the two-year period of 2011 and 2012) was nearly $1.7 million.

This put us in 11th place among the top 20 political action committees (PAC) that make contributions to federal candidates.

That top 20 group includes National Beer Wholesalers; AT&T; National Association of Realtors (NAR); American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees—and the American Bankers Association (ABA), which is at 10th place.

Good company? That depends on your point of view. NAR, for example, has strongly supported credit unions’ initiative to increase their member business lending authority.

We greatly appreciate the group’s support: Their members “get it”—and they’ve used their political savvy and clout to help us push this issue forward.

The ABA, on the other hand… well, you know.

But, again, money isn’t everything. We recognize that frankly it can never be our only or best avenue for effectiveness. Others (especially bankers) can always out-raise us.

And we’ve just received word the banks now have decided to form their own Super PAC—a device that accepts unlimited political contributions—which will only make their efforts more formidable.

For us, money is just one utensil in the political toolbox. And we add to it other mechanisms so we can focus, expand, and sustain political action and involvement. It all gives us a complete—and effective—program, which allows us to:

  • Work with potential candidates as they consider running for office (mostly for the first time);
  • Provide online tools for novice credit union advocates to give them confidence in their new roles;
  • Conduct research to show public support for our issues; and
  • Support existing candidates with special efforts during their election or re-election campaigns, especially through “partisan communications” in which credit unions use their own communications, such as newsletters to members, to show support for a candidate.

All of this is completely aimed at helping credit union friends win or hold onto their elective offices, so credit unions can better serve America.

Most important, we don’t base support (or lack of it) for a candidate on a single issue. Rather, we look at the candidate’s full experience in supporting credit unions as a guide for basing our support. And it’s absolutely nonpartisan.

We work for our friends and supporters whether they come from red or blue states. So far this year our contributions split almost evenly between the GOP and Democrats.

In this cycle, support for Republicans holds a slight edge, reflecting their House majority and the near-even control in the Senate. When Democrats held an edge, our support reflected that.

We urge credit unions to become involved in campaigns on either side of the political spectrum. This exposes all political sides to our issues, and hopefully a better understanding and appreciation of them.

We’re proud of the role CUNA, the leagues, and credit unions have in the political process. In fact, we are working to strengthen that role for the future.

The bottom line for us—and for credit unions—is that the solutions coming from the political process should be good for credit unions.

Because we also believe what’s good for credit unions is ultimately good for our country.

BILL CHENEY is CUNA’s president/CEO.