Former credit union lobbyist Marvin Umholtz said the industry shouldn’t fear a new banker super PAC, saying the Friends of Traditional Banking PAC, will function “more like a scalpel than a battle axe.”
According to its website, www.friendsoftraditionalbanking.com, the new bankers’ PAC was organized by the Utah Bankers Association and includes representatives on its advisory council from 10 other state bankers associations that have historically been hostile to credit unions, like Kansas and New Jersey.
Umholtz, president/CEO of Umholtz Strategic Planning & Consulting Services, said he thinks the PAC has been mislabeled as a super PAC. The Friends PAC will only focus on one or two campaigns per election cycle in which it can influence the outcome. It will either support or oppose a candidate, and rather than collect money, it will direct individuals to have made pledges to the PAC to write checks directly to the candidate’s campaign.
“One or two races an election cycle can send a strong message, but it cannot make a wholesale change to the House or Senate,” he said.
CUNA said it has no plans to create a similar campaign fundraising mechanism for credit unions. Instead, credit unions will continue to work grassroots support, said Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins. Credit unions have the advantage of 94 million members, of which 65% say a candidate’s stance on credit union issues matters to them. Banks can’t compete with that, Hawkins said.
CUNA Vice President of Communications Pat Keefe added that the trade encourages credit unions to engage their members through partisan communications.
NAFCU said it has no comment on the super PAC or its plans to counter the new lobbying effort.
John McKechnie, former NCUA and CUNA lobbyist who is now managing director for the Washington consulting firm Total Spectrum, said he’s concerned about the Friends group but said he’s “confident that credit unions can cover all the bases politically, both with money and grass-roots support.”
Umholtz said credit unions may support the same candidates as the Friends PAC because financial industry enemies in Congress are as likely to be enemies of credit unions as they are banks. He added that he doesn’t think any bank or credit union PAC should be funding any campaigns those who voted in favor of the Dodd-Frank Act.
“In my book, the Dodd-Frank supporters were all enemies of banks and credit unions,” he said.