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SALT LAKE CITY – In an upset victory-and a coup for Utah credit unions-a former lobbyist for the Utah Credit Union League, Rob Bishop, emerged the winner of the June 25 GOP Congressional primary race to represent the state’s First Congressional District. By a margin of 60-40, Bishop, a Brigham City school teacher who served briefly as a League lobbyist in the tough 1999 battle with banks over field of membership expansion, defeated Kevin Garn, former Utah House Majority Leader, who had received the backing of the Utah Bankers Association and is a cousin of former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah). Garn, a millionaire Layton businessman and chairman of the First National Bank of Layton, had reportedly put more than $700,000 in a campaign to defeat Bishop who was the recipient of a vigorous get-out-the-vote telephone and mail campaign of the League and Utah credit unions. Political pundits were predicting a tight race in the fall between Bishop and the Democrat primary challenger, Farmington advertising executive Dave Thomas for one of three U.S. House seats. The two are vying to fill the seat of retiring House Rep. James Hansen, who has held the GOP post for 22 years in this heavily GOP state. CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica said, “The election in Utah’s first congressional district demonstrates that credit unions are committed to staying politically involved. Credit union members are realizing that they cannot wait until officials are elected and operate on the hope that they will listen to them . The fact that Rob Bishop was outspent and yet won this primary race proves again that credit union members are fully engaged in the political process and they care about their credit unions.” The role of CU lobbying figured prominently in the Bishop-Garn race as Garn supporters complained CUs, as non-profits, were skirting election laws by supporting Bishop with campaign contributions. One outgrowth of the sometimes bitter bank-CU feud was a move by a Salt Lake auto dealer, Ed Kenley Ford, to cut off its account with the $2.2 billion America First Credit Union. Julie Kenley, owner of the dealership, charged America First with a “moral or ethical” lapse by getting into a political race as a non-profit. America First argued it had a perfectly legal right to support the candidate of its choosing, and it said the cutoff would have only “minimal” impact on its auto loan portfolio. A CU spokesman said Kenley Ford is only one of 140 Utah dealers in America First’s indirect program and “we had only just started working with that agency.” “We understand they received some negative reaction to their announcement,” said Brent Allen, executive vice president of America First. Conceding the effectiveness of the CU campaign to back Bishop, Garn told the Deseret News, “credit unions are now a powerful force in this state,” adding “this was a test case and they won.” Michael Milovich, chairman of the League’s Government Affairs Committee which had officially endorsed Bishop May 23, said he was “ecstatic” about the Bishop victory. “It’s nice to elect an individual who is credit union friendly,” said Milovich, but it is unfortunate that Garn, “who was so totally punitive toward credit unions” received as much public attention as he has. Milovich, who is president of Carbon Credit Union in Price, said it was also unfortunate that the Ed Kenley Ford dealership would cancel its America First contract. He like other CU executives forecast that it would backfire. Owners of the dealership, said Milovich, were financial supporters of Garn “who with his actions has tried to keep the credit union industry in a box.” Milovich, who identified himself as a Democrat, said the Bishop-Thomas fall race is “not a shoe-in” for Bishop, a former Speaker of the Utah House, but the Democrat faces “a pretty strong uphill fight” in a district which Milovich said is “probably the most Republican in the nation.” The Utah League in a June 14 news release noted “on May 23 a group of credit union leaders interviewed each of the candidates for the Congressional seat,” but the group “chose not to take position in the Democratic primary” and instead “strongly endorsed Bishop. Bishop, said the League, “has been a schoolteacher for 28 years, understands the average Utah citizen and what a difference credit unions can make in their lives.” During the 1999 FOM fight, Bishop was one of six “contract lobbyists” hired by the League to push the association’s position in the legislature following a court suit and ad campaign waged by the Utah Bankers Association., an outgrowth of the national skirmishing over H.R. 1151. -

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