The political action committees of CUNA and NAFCU are both raising and giving money at strong clips, and CUNA has retained its position as the 15th largest PAC in terms of donations.
Both PACs have less money in the bank than they did at the same time in the last campaign cycle two years ago, but they have given more money than they had at the same time in 2006, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
CUNA's PAC, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC), has given $993,665 to federal candidates and committees this year and $1.5 million since the campaign cycle started on Jan. 1, 2007. The PAC donated $809,120 during the first half of 2006. CULAC had $457,078 in the bank as of June 30, compared with $534,504 on the same date two years ago.
NAFCU's PAC, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Political Action Committee, has given $109,031 to federal candidates and committees this year and $207,482 since Jan. 1, 2007. The PAC donated $109,022 during the first six months of 2006. The PAC had $88,487 in the bank as of June 30, compared with $148,534 on the same date two years ago.
The pace of giving is being fueled by the fact that candidates are being more aggressive in their fund raising--political officials of both organizations say they are receiving a record number of solicitations for donations and because next year will be an especially active year legislatively.
There will be a new president and Congress is likely to consider several pieces of legislation of interest to credit unions, such as regulatory relief and a limit on credit card interchange fees. Also, some Democrats, such as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) have talked about expanding the Community Reinvestment Act to apply to credit unions, which credit unions strongly oppose. If a Democrat wins the presidency and Congress stays in Democratic control, there is a greater chance of a measure like that being taken up.
Though the PACs of both CUNA and NAFCU give to both parties, their contributions reflect the Democrats' control of both houses of Congress. CULAC has given $831,100 to Democrats and $690,599 to Republicans. NAFCU's PAC has given $124,417 to Democrats and $83,065 to Republicans.
CUNA Political Director Trey Hawkins said that although his group begins the cycle with an overall strategy, they look at the state of the races weekly and regularly consult with credit union leagues. He noted that given that this is likely to be a change election--so far four U.S. House members have lost primary elections--there is more volatility than usual.
"In the House, there are 435 races with 435 dynamics,'' he said. "Though the fact that is a presidential election makes it more national than an off-year election.''
NAFCU Director of Political Affairs Dillon Shea said he also examine races weekly and make adjustments as things change. He noted that at the beginning of the cycle, his group knew that Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) would have a tough race this year but hadn't expected Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) to be in danger of losing.
"We've got a pretty good track record in the races we've played in,'' he said. "But the big test of our decision making comes starting in September, that will be a whirlwind.''
Recent recipients of CULAC contributions have included House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and House Republican Whip Roy Blount (R-Mo.).
NAFCU's PAC has recently given contributions to prominent lawmakers, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, (D-Vt.), who is not up for reelection until 2010, and Rep. Ed Royce, (R-Caif.), a lead sponsor of several measures to provide regulatory relief for credit unions.
So far this cycle, 20 political action committees affiliated with credit unions have given a total of $1.8 million--55% to Democrats and 45% to Republicans. After CUNA and NAFCU, the largest donors were the PACs affiliated with U.S. Central Federal Credit Union, Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union and Wescom Credit Unions. Those PACs have given $28,310, $27,600 and $25,050, respectively.
Prominent individuals in the credit union community have also given contributions: NAFCU President Fred Becker gave $340 to his association's PAC; NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland gave $500 to the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.); and CUNA President Dan Mica gave $7,105 to CULAC and $4,600 to the U.S. Senate campaign of former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D).