Empire State Senate Race Further Illustrates CU Trades' Divide
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who has been a leader on many financial service-related issues and a strong backer of credit unions, is expected to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has also been backed by credit unions. CUNA and the Credit Union Association of New York said they plan to support Gillibrand, because she is the incumbent, even though she achieved that position as a result of being appointed by New York Gov. David Paterson.
NAFCU is still awaiting an official announcement of Maloney's plans but has always backed her and never given money to Gillibrand. Since Maloney has been in office, NAFCU's political action committee has contributed $28,000 to her campaigns.
"We'll look at the race closely, but Ms. Maloney has always been a good friend of credit unions," said NAFCU Political Affairs Director Jennifer Wahlen.
Several media reports have said Maloney, who has been in the House since 1993 and expressed interest in the Senate seat for which Paterson ultimately picked Gillibrand, plans to announce her candidacy for the Senate later this month. Maloney has already hired some staff members, including Joe Trippi, who was a top strategist for the unsuccessful presidential campaigns of Howard Dean and John Edwards.
CUNA's Credit Union Legislative Action Council has contributed $52,500 to Maloney during her congressional career, making it her 11th largest donor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The PAC has already given Maloney's congressional campaign $10,000 for the current election cycle. She can use those funds for a Senate race, although donors can ask for their money back.
CUNA Senior Vice President for Political Affairs Richard Gose said CUNA won't ask for the money back from Maloney, but is supporting Gillibrand because they gravitate toward incumbent allies. He said the association hasn't received any pressure from the Obama administration or Senate leaders to back Gillibrand.
"The endorsements by [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and Sen. [Charles] Schumer (D-N.Y.) are enough of a message on their own," Gose said.
Maloney is the No. 4 Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee and chairs the Joint Economic Committee. She has cosponsored CURIA and was the key sponsor of the credit card overhaul legislation.
CULAC gave Gillibrand $1,000 during the last two election cycles, when she was running for the House. Gillibrand, who is not on the Senate Banking Committee and did not serve on the House Financial Services Committee, was not a cosponsor of CURIA.
Amy Kramer, vice president of government affairs for the CUANY, said the organization has good relationships with both Gillibrand and Maloney and hasn't received pressure from credit unions in New York City-the most populous and politically powerful part of the state-to back Maloney.
The primary is scheduled for September 2010.