When credit union leaders talk about in-district visits with lawmakers—meetings with members of Congress when they’re back home—they consistently turn to one phrase: The long game.
“Any opportunity we get to spend time with members of Congress is crucial to our long-term relationship,” says Jeremy Empol, lobbyist and vice president of federal government affairs for the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. “It’s part of our strategy to play the long game.”
A credit union executive puts it another way.
“Isn’t everything in life about relationships?” says Eric Day, senior vice president of board advocacy and strategic initiatives at $1.2 billion asset Credit Union of Southern California in Anaheim.
In fact, Day says many of those relationships begin when politicians are city council members, then later serve as state representatives and eventually progress to the national stage.
“We do see it as a long game,” Day says. “We tell legislators, ‘We’re going to be here with you for the long term and support you.’ We hope they will help us with credit union issues.”
Trey Hawkins, CUNA’s vice president of political affairs, says CUNA takes a “surround-sound” approach in building relationships with lawmakers.
“There are a lot of industries and trade associations that do a fly-in and visit with lawmakers once a year, similar to CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference [GAC],” Hawkins says. “What we’ve tried to do is integrate GAC in late winter or early spring with Hike the Hill programs that run from April to early fall and in-district meetings during recesses throughout the year.
“Altogether, credit unions deliver to lawmakers an impression of being ever-present. That’s important,” Hawkins continues. “That conveys a message that as constituents, credit union advocates care deeply enough about our issues to keep showing up.”
In-district meetings can take several forms. Typically, they include informal breakfasts, meetings at lawmakers’ offices, credit union-hosted visits at branches, and attendance at fundraisers.