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<p>WASHINGTON-President George W. Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (H.R. 2356) into law last week and while the news is mostly good for credit unions, an issue of coordination could prove an obstacle. The main focus of the bill was eliminating soft money contributions-unlimited campaign contributions to the political parties and issue advertisements by interest groups. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the political parties raised almost half a billion dollars in soft money in 1999 and 2000, each reaping nearly an equal share. “Soft money has never been a big area for us,” CUNA Vice President of Political Action Richard Gose commented. Credit unions had given just over $170,000 in soft money of a total of more than $1 million so far in this election cycle (2001-2002), CPR reported. However, the amount of soft money contributions from credit unions appeared to be increasing. “I’ve received several calls about that Web site and those numbers are inaccurate because of the way soft money is reported,” Gose said. For example, he explained last year CUNA gave Republicans $51,250 in soft money and Democrats just $30,250. But the numbers do not show that $20,000 of the Republican contributions went to inaugural activities and would have gone to whichever party won the presidential election. Otherwise, contributions were basically equal between the parties. A bigger issue for credit unions is the one of coordination and how the Federal Election Commission (FEC) will define it. Generally, coordination could be promoting candidates outside of news events or partisan communications, Gose said. However, in the new law, Congress has requested that the FEC define `coordination’ as broadly as possible. “[A broad definition] shuts a lot of doors to us.” he commented. “They’ve cast a big net out there and it’s not just with the candidates.” It could mean if an organization uses the same vendor, such as a printer, as a candidate or hires a former employee of a candidate then runs an advertisement supporting the candidate, there would be coordination. The current law requires a formal agreement to be in coordination with a candidate, whereas the new law does not. The new law becomes effective November 6, the day after the elections, and the FEC is expected to have a rule out within 90 days of the effective date. Until the definition comes out, Gose said that CUNA and CULAC will just operate under a “worst case scenario” policy. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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