Trade PACs Are Tilting Toward Democrats but Not Ignoring the GOP
In politics, the party that controls Congress usually gets the lion's share of the campaign money.
That's been the case with the spending patterns of the political action committees of CUNA and NAFCU during this campaign, though they aren't ignoring the GOP.
CUNA's PAC, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council, has given 58% of its contributions to federal candidates that are Democrats and 42% to those who are Republicans.
NAFCU's PAC, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Political Action Committee, has given 63% of its contributions to Democratic federal candidates and 36% to Republicans.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a research and advocacy organization, compiled the data, which doesn't include contributions to political action committees.
Political strategists for both groups said the fact that most of their money is aiding Democratic candidates reflects their tendency to support incumbents. But they expressed confidence that they have close enough contacts with the GOP to be able to thrive if that party controls one or both chambers of Congress next year.
"We are among the most bipartisan groups in Washington," said CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins. "Our focus is supporting those who are friends of credit unions and can help us."
NAFCU Executive Vice President B. Dan Berger said their strategy is driven by a desire to "support our existing friends and make new ones."
Both groups said they can work with whichever party controls Congress, though Berger said, "If the pace of legislation and rules slows down a little, as would likely happen under Republican control, things will be better for the credit union industry."
According to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, which reflect financial conditions as of Aug. 30, CULAC had $1.1 million on hand that it could use for contributions. It raised $197,717 in August and $966,282 this year. It contributed $215,570 to federal candidates and PACs in August and $1.2 million this year.
The National Association of Federal Credit Unions Political Action Committee had $219,798 on hand. It raised $6,208 in August and has raised $66,268 this year. It gave $5,751 to federal candidates and committees in August and $122,739 this year.
In August, both PACs sought to shore up their ties with the GOP.
For example, CULAC gave $5,000 to the leadership PAC of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who is contemplating a presidential run in 2012. The PAC run by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia received $2,500 and the PAC of House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence received $1,000.
NAFCU's PAC made only three contributions in August, all to Republicans. It gave $3,500 to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), a strong credit union supporter; $1,000 to Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a Financial Services Committee member and credit union backer; and Thomas Reed, the mayor of Corning, N.Y., a candidate for an open U.S. House seat.
Both associations said they planned a range of financial and in-kind contributions during the final weeks of the campaign but declined to say what form those efforts will take.
"Keep an eye out for surprises," CUNA's Hawkins said. The PAC has already done partisan communications on behalf of House candidates in Arizona and Georgia, one who won the primary and the other who lost. It also did an independent expenditure on behalf of a GOP congressional candidate in New Hampshire who lost.
NAFCU's Berger said they are "looking at races all the time and seeing where we can make a difference."
Hawkins and Berger both said one of the races they are watching closely is the re-election race of Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) who faces another strong challenge from GOP nominee Lou Barletta.
Both PACs provided financial and other assistance to Kanjorski in 2008 and chances are that will be one of their priorities this time as well.