WASHINGTON – CUNA ranked 59 out of the top 100 campaign contributors since 1989 in a Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) study, making nearly $8 million in contributions since that time. What sparked credit unions’ interest in political giving was the AT&T Supreme Court ruling from 1998 that strictly limited fields of membership. Following that decision, credit unions gathered up the troops and engaged in serious grassroots and fundraising. In the 1998 election cycle, CUNA contributed nearly $1.5 million to political campaigns, almost doubling the 1996 cycle’s $810,925, CRP discovered using documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Of the $7,993,314 CUNA has contributed in the last seven election cycles including the current one, more than $5.2 million has been in the last three cycles. As of September 9, CUNA had given more than $1.8 million, which is down slightly from the $1.9 million given in the 2000 cycle, but more recent and future data could put them over the last cycle’s figures. In recent years, credit union giving has been leaning toward the right. According to CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose, that is because there have been more Republican incumbents in the House to choose from. His statement is supported by CRP’s study, which shows CUNA’s contributions tilted toward the Democrats until the 1996 election cycle, the one following the Republican coup of the House in the Contract with America. However, over the 14-year period, CUNA’s giving averaged 48% to the Democrats and 52% to the Republicans. While CUNA has advertised about some of the “top” lists its political arm, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC), has made-CULAC is currently among the top five trade association PACs for contributions-some in the credit union community are not convinced that credit unions should be involved in giving PAC money. However, CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica, a former congressman, has maintained that you have to play within the rules of the game to get anywhere in Washington. For those who might find PAC contributions “unsavory,” CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose offered this: “[For] everything we do, we’re accountable and we have to report what we give out, what we receive.” He added that as of July, CULAC had taken in $2.5 million but only $120,000 of that was from contributions of $200 or more. Really, these are individuals contributing, he emphasized. Gose explained he felt that once you sit down and explain to people how CULAC works within the beltway, they understand. He said that CUNA’s growth in political giving has been “a positive for the movement, a positive for the country and consumers.” [email protected]

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