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<p>WASHINGTON – The Credit Union Legislative Action Council’s (CULAC) efforts should benefit if the current federal campaign finance reform effort makes it into law, said Dan Mica, president/CEO of CUNA. Campaign finance reform should help level the playing field when it comes to political fundraising by closing down the loopholes that have allowed certain wealthy individuals and corporations to give millions in so-called “soft” money, Mica explained. CUNA administers CULAC, which was counted as the 12th largest nationwide in political donations in the last election round. About $120,000 of its $780,000 2001 donations went to so-called “soft” money that will not be allowed under the proposed law. “Soft” money is money donated to political parties essentially without limit. “Hard” money is that donated directly to federal candidates and is accountable under federal election law. CULAC can donate no more than $10,000 to each political campaign, $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election, under current law. Mica said that CUNA’s potential donor base for political contributions, which he estimated at 80 million members, positions credit unions very well for elections after campaign finance reform, giving credit unions a ready source of both funds and votes. “You really cannot overestimate the importance of having both funds and votes,” Mica said. He remembered how, in a previous legislative fight, a former colleague (Mica spent 10 years serving Florida in the House of Representatives.) confronted him about the legislation CUNA supported. “I don’t know whether you have me on the substance,” Mica remembered the colleague saying, “but you sure have me on the votes. Everybody in my district is upset with me about not supporting this.” The former colleague voted for the measure and looked at the substance later, Mica reported. He also cited the current Enron scandal as an example of what can happen when “all you do is throw money around without a lot of support.” Enron spent a lot of money but the only access they got – it appears – is that some folks took their phone calls, Mica added. He stressed that, aside from CULAC’s “soft” donations, little would change for the credit union fund. The legislation’s impact would come with closing down the large soft money donations from other corporations and groups than from necessarily boosting CULAC’s abilities. According to campaign finance watchers and the Federal Election Commission, Bank of America, for example, donated $2.6 million in soft money in the 2000 election cycle and Freddie Mac donated almost $2.4 million. The largest trade association soft money donor, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, spent $1.3 million in the cycle, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees $5.9 million made it the largest donor in all categories. If passed and signed in its current form the bill would not take effect until after the November elections. National party committees would not be allowed to use soft money and donations to state party committees would be limited to $10,000 and would only be allowed for get out the vote efforts. Hard limits would remain at $2,000 to individual candidates. Individuals could give no more than $25,000 to parties.</p>

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