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<p>WASHINGTON- The possibility of credit union-friendly Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) losing his congressional seat does not sit well with credit unions, so some are reaching into their own pockets to prevent that from happening this year. Following the completion of the most recent Census data, many states were forced to redraw their U.S. Congressional voting districts. Pennsylvania, the number one ranking state by number of credit unions with 790, according to Callahan’s 2001 Credit Union Directory, was forced to drop two congressional seats. The state’s redistricting, handled by the Republican lead state legislature, did not look so good for the Democrats. In fact, a court case is currently pending (Richard Vieth and Norman Jean Vieth v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, charging that the redistricting lines are so unfair, it amounts to `gerrymandering.’ Close credit union friend, and former colleague of CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica, Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D) could have been severely affected by the decision. Originally, it looked like Kanjorski may have had to run against fellow incumbent Democrat Tim Holden. While that scenario is now less likely, Kanjorski’s race may still be tight with about one-third of his new district coming from outside his last one. “He still has the toughest race he’s had in a long time,” CUNA Vice President of Political Action Richard Gose commented. The congressman told Credit Union Times that no one could really be sure until the court case is resolved. Kanjorski said that he is not directly involved in it, but he expected a final decision would probably be made in the next six weeks. Kanjorski, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, is serving his 11th term in the House. As a co-sponsor of H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act, and a primary advocate Kanjorski was “working his heart out for us,” Mica said. So, after learning the congressman could be in for a tough fight, Mica said he told Kanjorski, “You have been a strong supporter of credit unions and we’ll do everything we can to help.” The congressman admitted that he has difficulty getting involved with the “nitty-gritty” of politics, like fundraising and that credit unions have been a big help. “Politics isn’t as cold as some people would have you think,” Kanjorski commented, saying that credit unions were helping him out “as you’d expect your friends to help.” He added that Mica had been wonderful to him. Kanjorski is also a co-sponsor to Congressman Ed Royce’s (R-Calif.) faith-based lending bill for credit unions; House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member John LaFalce’s (D-N.Y.) legislation to continue the Federal Reserve Banking Fee Study and include credit unions; legislation prohibiting federally insured institutions from performing payday lending; and a bill to permit depository institutions to pay interest on business checking accounts. As evidence, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA (CULAC) has already made the maximum contribution it can-$10,000-to Kanjorski’s campaign. CULAC and the league political action committees (PACs) are considered a `federation of PACs’ by the Federal Election Commission and are limited to a total of $10,000 in contributions. In an effort to aid Kanjorski, Mica suggested in a speech to the credit union league presidents that if each league got individual people to contribute an aggregate of $500 that would mean $25,000 for Kanjorski’s campaign. Even with the good news that Kanjorski would not run against Holden, the leagues are still taking the plight of the credit union-friendly congressman to heart. Pennsylvania Credit Union League President James McCormack commented, “It appears to be wide open from Congressman Kanjorski but he’s been such a good friend, we’re not going to take anything for granted.” A group of 40 credit union leaders in northeastern Pennsylvania cosponsored an event last week, which drew approximately 100 people, to benefit Kanjorski’s race. The event raised $7,000 for the campaign. McCormack said the league did not currently have a total amount that individuals associated with credit unions in Pennsylvania had raised for Kanjorski, but that he could think of an additional $3,000 to $4,000 off-hand. All the way on the opposite coast, the California Credit Union League is also aiding in the effort. According to an unofficial tally by the league, individuals have said they have donated or will be donating a total of $6,500, League Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Chris Kerecman said. “It may not be as bad as [Kanjorski] feared, but the fact he’s getting a quarter of a million new voters, it’s almost like running for the first time.” Kerecman called the program “very progressive,” pointing out that credit unions would be able to give two- to three-times as much money and still be consistent with the law. “Looking backward or forward, this is somebody we can’t afford to lose,” Kerecman said. He pointed to H.R. 1151 in the past and the work of the Renaissance Commission in the future. “The response was much more quick and aggressive than I ever expected,” Mica commented. CUNA has been keeping an unofficial tally on the money raised in this manner, which totals approximately $25,000 to $30,000, Mica said. Most contributions have been in the range of $5 to $20. CUNA’s CEO said he gave $250 to the congressman’s campaign efforts. “I am pleased to see such a grassroots `thank you’.for such a good supporter.” While CUNA has not made any similar efforts in the past, Gose said CULAC will try to formalize this type of fundraising into an actual program after the first quarter. [email protected]</p>

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