WASHINGTON-The Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA exceeded more funds contributed and taken in during the first quarter of 2003 than it did in the same time period in 2001, the most recent first year of an election cycle. CUNA Political Director Karen Kincer pointed out, "Even at this time last year we tried to get in early with candidates." According to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission, CULAC's receipts totaled $299,555.93 for the first quarter this year while at this time in 2001 they stood at $251,599.19. In March 2003, CULAC took in $145,505.66, as opposed to just $84,487.12 in March 2001. "A lot of the mysteries" have been taken out now that redistricting has been settled, so CULAC felt comfortable giving money earlier, too, CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose explained. He added that some times it is better to give a lot of cash out at the beginning of an election cycle because what the candidates are looking for is who is spending the money. CULAC was ranked 13th in contributions last election cycle, which is where people are looking first, Gose said. In addition, CULAC also distributed more funds ($188,835.91) in the first quarter of this year than in the same time frame in 2001 ($105,475.46). However, CUNA's political action committee is keeping less money in reserves so far this cycle. CULAC's cash on hand as of March 31 was $204,029.07, but at this time in 2001 totaled $309,02.88, the report said. However, Kincer emphasized that the campaign finance reform laws brought about other changes that may be affecting CUNA's contributions early on. Under the old law, candidates filed their contributions received with the FEC semi-annually in the first year of an election cycle. Those first six months served as a "litmus test on the viability" of a candidate" or could be used to scare off those considering a challenge. The law now requires quarterly filing, which cuts the time to raise money for that `test' in half, pushing candidates to try to collect earlier in the cycle. Several lawmakers have already received high-dollar contributions from CULAC. Representative Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) has already collected $10,000 from CULAC. CUNA's PAC has also contributed $7,500 to Senate Banking Committee Member Evan Bayh (D-Ind.); $6,500 to Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.); and $5,000 to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Congressman William Jefferson (D-La.).

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