Come Nov. 7, CUNA will have spent nearly $4 million dollars for the current election cycle, Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins told Credit Union Times.
In addition to nearly $3 million the trade association has contributed to candidates, PACs and political parties, CUNA has also spent more than $1 million on independent expenditures and partisan communications in key races.
About $600,000 in independent expenditures, in which CUNA communicates its support for candidates while keeping “an arm’s length” from official campaigns, have been spent on four close congressional races.
They include radio and other advertising support for two candidates in Iowa, Republican Rep. Tom Latham in the 3rd District and Democrat Christie Vilsack in the 4th District. Independent expenditures also went toward advertising support for two candidates in New York, former Rep. Dan Maffei, a Democrat attempting to win back his seat in the 24th District, and Republican Chris Collins, challenging Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul in the 27th District.
“All of these races have in common opportunities for credit unions to go into competitive races,” Hawkins said.
He acknowledged that while challengers don’t often win congressional races, CUNA has fared well with the strategy: of the seven challengers the trade supported during the last election cycle, five were victorious.
Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose added that challengers also have the advantage of a low 17% congressional approval among voters.
“People are willing to consider somebody new more than I’ve ever seen before,” Gose said.
CUNA is also leveraging the power of credit union members in two tight races, supporting incumbents Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mt.) and Rep. Larry Kissel (D-N.C.). The trade is working with each candidate’s respective credit union league, utilizing “partisan communications” in their favor.
Hawkins said CUNA research shows that as many as 65% of credit union members said they are more likely to vote for a candidate if their credit union advises them to. To stand out from other campaign ads targeting credit union members, Hawkins said CUNA’s communications have a positive message of support for credit union-friendly candidates, rather than the negative advertising that has been common during this election cycle.
“If you’re running a campaign, a $5,000 check is just a tiny piece of what you’re trying to do,” he said. “But, if you’re in the trenches, and you see someone with a positive image coming in communications to voters, saying ‘vote for this guy because he’s a friend to credit unions’, when so much advertising is negative? I think it furthers our overall advocacy goals.”