As a former elected official, I know a thing or two about the campaign process. And in my eyes, the recent success of CUNA, the leagues, and our member credit unions in the political arena has been nothing short of inspiring.
Through the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) and our league partners, credit unions have firmly imprinted themselves onto the political landscape as we head into this month’s national party conventions.
Here’s an important example.
In early June, alongside the Carolinas Credit Union League, we sent four partisan communication mailers to 18,000 credit union voters in North Carolina backing Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., one of the strongest credit union supporters in the House.
The American Bankers Association spent more than $100,000 supporting a candidate one bank group labeled as someone who could beat Walter “Credit Union” Jones.
Well, Wall Street money is no match for credit union grassroots. Rep. Jones summarily defeated his challenger and is expected to retake his House seat in November.
This credit union victory blocked a serious attempt by Wall Street to pull a credit union supporter out of Congress. It also demonstrated the value of involvement in CUNA/league political activities.
We’ve seen impressive participation this year in CULAC, which is poised to spend a record-breaking amount supporting credit union-friendly candidates this election season.
By the end of May, CULAC had raised more than $3.34 million for the 2016 elections and had contributed more than $2.5 million to pro-credit union candidates and political committees. This ranks CULAC as the third-largest trade association political action committee (PAC) and the ninth-largest PAC overall.
By the end of the cycle, we expect to invest $6.5 million into the campaigns of credit union-friendly candidates.
It has been money well-spent: As of June 8, out of 203 CULAC-backed candidates, 199 had won their primaries—a 98% success rate—and all are well-positioned to either claim or reclaim seats in Congress in November.
But PAC activity isn’t the only way CUNA and the leagues have asserted themselves on the campaign trail this year.
We’ve also partnered with the Ohio Credit Union League, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and RealClearPolitics on convention leave-behind projects.
These permanent projects, which will enrich medical treatment for children, will help raise awareness of the credit union difference when state and federal lawmakers arrive in Cleveland and Philadelphia for their respective conventions.
These types of efforts—raising the profile of credit unions at national conventions and contributing to the campaigns of pro-credit union candidates—play an important role in protecting and advocating for credit union interests on Capitol Hill. But they are far from our only tools.
With Congress taking a seven-week recess this summer, we have a valuable opportunity to put in quality face time with our elected officials. That’s why we’ll work with our league partners to have credit unions invite their current and prospective representatives and senators to tour their facilities during the recess.
Lawmakers both appreciate and better understand the concerns of their constituents when they meet them back home. They’ll be looking to set up meetings with local businesses and other community leaders in the coming weeks.
Let’s make your credit union one of those stops so our elected officials learn about the great work you do in your communities every day, and about what your services mean to your members.
Start planning now. Reach out to your local district office or, better yet, work with your league to set up a visit. That way we can send our members of Congress back to Washington with an even better sense of the credit union difference—and a better understanding of why they should protect it.
JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of CUNA.