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ARLINGTON, Va.-NAFCU’s political action committee (PAC) fund has long been overshadowed by its larger stepsister, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA (CULAC), but NAFCU’s government affairs department is looking to increase its financial presence on Capitol Hill. According to Erica Anderson, NAFCU associate director of political affairs, the group has set a goal of collecting $75,000 by year-end 2002. With more than $50,000 in the credit union PAC now, $28,000 just from the Annual Conference, NAFCU is well on its way to possibly exceeding that goal. Even at $75,000, the PAC fund would be at its second highest dollar amount ever. The most funds raised by NAFCU/PAC, founded in 1976, in one year totaled about $83,000 in 1997, in the heat of the H.R. 1151 battle. “That was the great awakening as far as credit union officials and credit union volunteers are concerned,” NAFCU Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bill Donovan pointed out. While contributions to NAFCU/PAC have declined some since then, Donovan said he does not think it is out of antipathy. Understanding of the political process within the credit union movement has grown, he explained, but it needs to be emphasized that relationships inside the beltway cannot be flipped off and on like a light switch. At the request of member credit unions to be able to collect smaller donations from their members, NAFCU has gotten creative in how it will raise funds. NAFCU has begun two new programs this year, one of which is selling specially made calendars through member credit unions at $25 a piece. The 16-month calendars are complete with photographs by NAFCU staff of sites around the Capitol-area. There is also a raffle ticket to tear out and send in to win more than $14,000 in prizes, including $150 Nike gift certificates, a digital camera, and cash. The dates for the giveaways are marked in the calendar. NAFCU also has patriotic brown or white beanie bears for $5 contributions. With NAFCU/PAC averaging about $100,000 in contributions from its members for the last two election cycles (1997/1998 and 1999/2000), the group has been somewhat limited in its financial involvement in political campaigns. However, NAFCU has tried to make up for that with additional fundraising activities for candidates, like helping to organize events. For example, NAFCU member credit unions in Long Island have been very politically active. Fortunately, New York also has a large number of its representatives on the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees, Donovan said. In fact three of the four representatives from the Long Island area serve on the House Financial Services Committee. When the New York credit unions are trying to put together an event, they keep NAFCU up to date with their progress in hopes of receiving financial aid from NAFCU/PAC, as well as having a NAFCU official on hand at the event. The Long Islanders’ organized events for Congressmen Felix Grucci (R) and Steve Israel (D) this election cycle and plan to hold one soon for Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D). Grucci and Israel are both freshman on the House Financial Services Committee and Grucci also serves on the Small Business Committee. NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler highlighted the importance of these activities as well as PAC contributions to political candidates. “Sometimes, there is a perception out there that [lobby groups] use PACs to buy votes, buy interest. It helps build relationships,” he said. Having less money in its political coffers, NAFCU/PAC must choose wisely where its limited resources go. The legislative team said they receive at least 20 faxes a day asking for contributions plus dozens of phone calls and mail. “We have constant requests for financial support coming in from members of Congress,” Donovan said. He continued, “Politics is intimately tied in with relationships.” Politicians who have demonstrated their commitment to credit union issues are in the first tier to receive money from NAFCU/PAC. Included in this top level of support, Donovan said, were Credit Union Membership Access Act sponsors like Congressmen Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio). The next step is to look at who is positioned to help the most, such as those on the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee, as well as the Small Business Committees, Judiciary Committees, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House Ways and Means Committee. Thaler chimed in that the status of a candidate race is also important. He said that if a good credit union friend in Congress is expected to win his or her district by a landslide, then greater financial considerations could be made for another credit union-friendly candidate facing a more difficult election and members of Congress typically understand that. It also works the other way sometimes when lawmakers ask NAFCU/PAC to help one of their own congressional allies. And just because a politician does not support your efforts today, does not mean that they will not help you out somewhere down the road. “They may vote contrary to your desires on a particular issue, but that does not mean that a member of Congress doesn’t understand and doesn’t support your industry,” Donovan said. He pointed to Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) who had voted against H.R. 1151 in 1998, but who also has been a credit union champion during the markups of the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 3951). [email protected]

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