WASHINGTON-The Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA (CULAC) continues to grow exponentially, increasing its power and presence on Capitol Hill. And CUNA is not too shy to shout it from the rooftops. Racking up more than $2.5 million this congressional election cycle (2001-2002), CULAC is really making a name for itself. Last election cycle, also a presidential election year, which tends to bring more funds to political war chests, was a record for CULAC at $1.8 million. "That is quite an increase. I'm stunned myself," CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica had to say about the fund. CULAC now lists in the top five of trade association political action committees (PACs) and the top 25 of all PACs, according to Federal Election Commission data. Not only is CULAC rolling out the dough, the PAC is making sure candidates who receive contributions know it, CUNA fundraisers said, which is also important. "These two are doing a bang up job," Mica said of CUNA Political Affairs Vice President Richard Gose and Political Director Karen Kincer. During the 1998 election cycle, CULAC contributed $1.2 million and back in the 1995-96-election cycle, prior to H.R. 1151, CULAC gave just $756,000. "1151 was a shot of adrenaline, but that quickly fades," Gose explained. So CULAC has beefed up its fundraising powers in several ways. The construction of Credit Union House, just over a year ago now, is one of them. Leagues use their `home away from home' to work on plans of attack when they come to Washington to `Hike the Hill,' another program started under Mica's watch. Credit Union House will be hosting six fundraising events in September alone and a total of 70 events at Credit Union House this year. The state leagues are also selling state coin packages for collectors to have something to show for their donations. Credit unions are buying sets of quarters including a package with the state song, history, and flower at $2.25 and selling them to members for $3.50, Kincer explained. Some leagues are even ordering collector's boxes. "When their own state comes out, they go wild," she said. A new quarter is released every 10 weeks. Additionally, CULAC has been running its `Deduct-a-buck' program, for which member credit unions ask their members if they can take a dollar out of their account each year to support CULAC. Mica admits that he feels that program is "not where it should be." However, this year, CULAC is doing something completely new in the way of fundraising. This year, the group will raffle off a 2002 Ford Thunderbird. For a $10 suggested donation or three tickets for $20, a lucky credit union supporter could drive away in this $37,590 vehicle. Entrants can keep their fingers crossed for the December 6 drawing. Mica, as a former congressman, understands that fundraising is important, but it is not all that matters inside the beltway. "Money isn't the end all. You have to have money and you have to have a good, legitimate case," according to Mica. But, in order to get some recognition, it is important. "You've got to be a player if you're going to get your message across," he reminded. While some credit union folks have made their queasiness known over the political gaming, those are the rules of engagement, Mica said. He pointed out that these regulators and legislators have "life and death rule over credit unions." "There are certainly people advocating against us to those same legislators and regulators," Gose chimed in. Since CULAC has increased its political might, CUNA has become more of a player in Washington with greater presence at the National Governors Associations, both Democrat and Republican, as well as at the presidential conventions. In deciding which candidates to shell out funds to, CULAC goes through the process of discussing with the leagues who has been more helpful or receptive to them. The CULAC Board then divvies up what money goes where. It was a similar process that led CUNA to come up with the Credit Union Champions program for congressional candidates who may need a little extra boost for a rocky campaign. Mica described the six-Representatives Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), who introduced the regulatory relief legislation; George Gekas (R-Pa.), who introduced the bankruptcy legislation; Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.); Dennis Moore (D-Kan.); Clay Shaw (R-Fla.); and Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)-as "people who have really gone out on a limb for us." The Credit Union Champions all ran unopposed in their primaries, but the general elections coming up are sure to be tough fights. Pamphlets describing the program include contribution enclosure cards to identify the contributor as part of the credit union movement and card to return to CUNA for tracking. -email@example.com
CULAC continues to rev its engines, this time with a Thunderbird
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