ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul hosting the Republican National Convention in September and national interest high in anticipation of this year's election, the Minnesota Credit Union Network is working to ratchet up the political involvement of member credit unions.
Just click on the new Grassroots Education and Action Team Web site, www.greatcreditunions.org, and you'll get the message that numbers count.
"The power of GREAT comes from credit union's most valuable resource--their members and supporters," the home page declares.
The site offers news, information on elected officials, a guide to elections and candidates and tips on working with the political process.
Backers stress the political power of credit unions comes from grassroots strength. They acknowledge that unlike the bankers, credit unions do not have unlimited financial resources and countless lobbyists. But they do have people. With 180 credit unions serving more than 1.5 million Minnesotans, GREAT supporters believe credit unions have the potential to be the most powerful grassroots organization in the state, able to defeat any negative proposals.
A subset of GREAT is a new Political & Grassroots Network. While about 1,000 people are enrolled in GREAT, 30 are involved in PGN. Ideally, there will be a representative from each credit union, explained Mara Humphrey, MnCUN vice president of governmental affairs.
"They may not be the president of the credit union," Humphrey said. "Many credit unions do have someone else who does more of the [political activity] coordinating. The idea is to have a more formal group in place to generate enthusiasm."
The MnCUN anticipates two training sessions a year for PGN. The goal is to have a structured process to get people engaged, with a lead person in each credit union so political involvement isn't coming only from the MnCUN.
"We're trying to focus on the importance of credit unions being active in the political process," Humphrey noted. "What happens at the state level, and what happens in Washington, does impact credit unions. We're a highly regulated industry, and we have to take part."
She cited the example of credit union involvement in legislation affecting plastic card security during the last legislative session. During the current session, Minnesota credit unions are concerned the state Department of Revenue wants to require all financial institutions, including credit unions, to assist the state in collecting unpaid taxes.
While credit unions believe people should pay their taxes, an Action Alert on the GREAT Web site indicates the proposal is an unfunded mandate posing cost and privacy issues to credit unions and their members.