Credit union trade associations have entered the 2012 election homestretch, with both CUNA and NAFCU confirming PAC spending figures reported by the Federal Election Commission and website OpenSecrets.org.
CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins said his organization will have spent nearly $4 million on the election cycle when the dust settles Nov. 7.
CUNA has contributed nearly $3 million to candidates, PACs and political parties during the current cycle. According to OpenSecrets, the top five recipients of CULAC funds are Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) who received $19,250, the retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) who has received $15,500, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) who each received $15,000, and Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) who received $13,000.
OpenSecrets also reported that CUNA’s campaign contributions are split evenly between the Democrat and Republican parties.
NAFCU Director of Political Affairs Katie Marisic confirmed that her organization has spent nearly $270,000 making donations to political campaigns during the current election cycle.
NAFCU’s top candidate recipients include Representatives Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), each receiving $10,000, followed by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) with $7,000 and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) with $6,500.
Sherman, who is facing a tough race against Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) in the Los Angeles area due to redistricting, also received $11,000 from CUNA during this election cycle.
Marisic said Sherman has supported credit unions a number of times while serving on the House Financial Services Committee, and has impressed NAFCU members with his dedication to the industry. She said coming into the election homestretch, Sherman appears to be ahead of Berman in the polls and is well liked by his constituents.
“We look forward to working with him in the next congress,” Marisic said.
Tester, a supporter of financial institutions who along with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) led an unsuccessful attempt in 2011 to delay the Federal Reserve’s regulation of interchange fees, also received $11,000 from CUNA. The Montana senator is competing in what Marisic called “one of the most competitive Senate races in the country” against six-term Montana Representative Denny Rehberg.
NAFCU has also put support behind Bonamici, who won her congressional seat in a special election in January 2012, and must fend off Republican challenger Delinda Morgan to keep the post. She has been a strong supporter of credit union member business lending, Marisic said.
Top campaign donation recipients Royce, Bachus and Neugebauer don’t face tough races this year. Marisic said NAFCU doesn’t necessarily put its support behind the most contested races, but rather, sometimes puts money “where we can do a significant amount of good for credit unions.” That includes supporting members of the House Financial Services Committee, on which Royce, Bachus and Neugebauer all have senior positions.
“We make sure we’re putting donations toward people who represent credit unions, and represent them well,” Marisic said.
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 the official campaigns, have also been spent on four close congressional races.
CUNA is also leveraging the power of partisan communications by sending positive messages to credit union members in Montana and North Carolina in support of Tester and Rep. Larry Kissel (D-N.C.).
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.