Jim Nussle

S. 2155: How we did it

The strategy and story behind historic regulatory relief.

August 1, 2018

Our Campaign for Common-Sense Regulation had one goal: Deliver real regulatory relief for credit unions. By now, you know we succeeded.

On May 24, President Donald Trump signed into law S. 2155—The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. But we haven’t talked much about how we helped pass this historic legislation.

With Republicans controlling the House, Senate, and White House, and 11 Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won—making them amenable to compromise—we knew we had favorable conditions for reg relief.

We also knew it wouldn’t be easy. To win, we knew CUNA and our league partners would need to coordinate our efforts to separate credit union and small-bank issues from large-bank relief and control the narrative.

So, before a bill had even been written, we framed the conversation by defining what successful legislation looks like: bipartisan, with a focus on Main Street, not Wall Street.

We did this through earned media, our Member Activation Program, and coalition building, ensuring credit unions’ point of view saturated our most important audiences. By anticipating what the largest argument against regulatory relief would be—that it’s a giveaway to big banks—we diffused it early by keeping the legislation’s focus on Main Street.

As the Senate sponsors of S. 2155 put together their bill, we defined our priorities to ensure they included credit union-only relief. Together, CUNA and the leagues held nearly 2,000 meetings with lawmakers and staff, testified three times before congressional committees, and sent several dozen letters supporting provisions benefiting credit unions.

Our unified voice resulted in the inclusion of credit union-specific provisions, such as exempting one- to four-family non-owner-occupied residential loans from the member business lending cap and bringing greater transparency to the NCUA budget process.

Once the Senate introduced S. 2155 in November 2017, we began a CUNA-funded digital, broadcast, and earned media “thank you” blitz to the bill’s co-sponsors. Simultaneously, we coordinated targeted digital and social media advertising—layering constituent voices on top of CUNA/league advertising and earned media.

This outreach emboldened the original co-sponsors to fight for the bill in the face of fierce opposition. As the floor debate approached, we added more traditional grassroots—but in new ways. We engaged a record-breaking 5,000 attendees at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference using new technologies like Phone2Action and social media, sending thousands of messages to senators heading to the floor debate.

During the debate, CUNA and our league partners provided our Senate champions with countless stories and examples of how the legislation would help credit unions. The focus articulated how S. 2155 would benefit local communities in the states of key senators and kept credit unions out of the Washington food fights.

Upon Senate passage, we focused on the districts of a few key House members who would determine whether to bring the bill to the floor. We wanted to avoid a situation where the House changed the bill, sending it back to the Senate and endangering the delicate bipartisan coalition that passed it.

By focusing op-eds and digital engagement on these key House members, we helped drive the House to a point where voting on S. 2155 as passed by the Senate seemed the only logical conclusion.

Our strategy worked: 60% of the House and 67% of the Senate voted in favor of this bill. It’s the first major banking bill to enjoy such bipartisan support in more than 15 years.

Your engagement made our strategy successful. We delivered regulatory relief because thousands of passionate credit union advocates made their voices heard. Working together, we accomplished something historic.

But we’re not done. We learned a lot getting S. 2155 across the finish line, and we’ll certainly apply those lessons in the future.

So stay tuned. Stay engaged. There’s more to come.