CUNA and NAFCU Increase Campaign Donations and Lobbying
CUNA spent $1.25 million on lobbying activities during the first three months of 2009, compared with $890,000 during the same period last year.
"We've had to increase our lobbying activities because of the activism of the Congress in a range of areas relating to the economy in general and financial services in particular," said CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan.
He noted that representatives of his group testified four times during all of 2008; this year, before the Easter recess, three representatives testified over a six-day period.
The amount spent on lobbying includes portions of lobbyists' salaries as well as the time spent by other members to support those activities like clerical assistance of an economic analysis used to back up arguments made by lobbyists.
NAFCU spent $462,957 during the first three months of 2009, compared with $284,382 for the same time last year.
NAFCU Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Dan Berger also attributed the boost in spending to the increased activities of Congress, but additionally cited changes in the reporting rules.
"The first quarter had all the activities associated with the inauguration, swearing in, as well as the busier agenda with the new Congress," he said. "Also, during the first quarter, they came out with additional clarification of their rules that said to report total compensation or earnings, and our counsel said to interpret the new rules to include benefits in our calculation."
On the campaign money front, CUNA's political action committee is exceeding its fundraising pace from the same period in 2007 (the start of the last two-year election cycle), but has slowed its pace of giving. Because of changes in its reporting frequency, it is difficult to make the same comparisons for NAFCU.
CUNA's PAC-the Credit Union Legislative Action Council-has contributed $314,900 to federal candidates and committees during the first three months of 2009. That's down from the first three months of 2007, when CULAC gave $514,250.
CULAC had $481,218.47 at the end of March, compared with $158,547 at the end of March 2007. CULAC raised $374,072 during the first three months of 2009, compared with $344,516 during the first three months of 2007.
NAFCU-PAC has contributed $36,773 to federal candidates and committees during the first three months of 2009. In 2007, the PAC had given $83,640 to federal candidates and committees during the same period.
NAFCU-PAC had $142,379.07 on-hand at the end of March. In 2007, it only reported its cash on hand in six-month intervals so accurate comparisons cannot be made.
Officials of both groups and campaign finance experts have said the drop-off in campaign giving is due to the sluggishness of the economy and the pace slows in the early months of nonpresidential election cycles.
Both PACs have given money to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Joint Economic Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Frank, Maloney and Royce are not considered to be in political trouble, but all are key allies of credit unions. Maloney has been the key sponsor of efforts to expand disclosure requirements and place restrictions on the ability of credit card issuers to raise interest rates, but she is a strong backer of most issues that credit unions care about. If she runs for re-election, she is not considered to be in political trouble but has not ruled out the possibility of entering the primary for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
Specter, who just switched parties last week, was one of the few moderate Republicans left in Congress. He was likely to face a primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who almost defeated Specter in the 2004 primary. Although Specter will probably not have serious competition among Democrats, the general election in the Keystone State is expected to be expensive and quite competitive.
Other lawmakers to whom CULAC has contributed money this year include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who could have a tough re-election race; and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the No. 3 member of his party's leadership and a senior member of the Banking Committee.
NAFCU-PAC has also given money this year to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). Neither Conyers nor Leahy is in political trouble. Vitter, a member of the Banking Committee, could have a tough reelection fight in part because his phone number appeared on the call list of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jane Palfrey.