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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – It’s too early to tell what’s in store for California credit unions with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governor’s mansion, but Minnesota credit unions learned very quickly that their celebrity-turned-governor didn’t have much interest in credit unions. Kevin Chandler probably wishes he could give a glowing report on the relationship between Minnesota credit unions and wrestler-turned-former Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, but he doesn’t have much to go on. “It was nonexistent,” said Chandler, president/CEO of the Minnesota Credit Union Network, of the relationship. “When Ventura came in, we came in with high hopes, but honestly, when people ask me about the relationship with Ventura, I would have to say `you got me.’ ” Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in 1999. During his tenure, Chandler said he “ never met with lobbyists,” and while he did sign the powerful Minnesota Credit Union Protection Act, which allowed credit unions to expand their fields of membership here, Ventura flatly turned down a request from Chandler to participate in a bill signing ceremony. “(Ventura’s) spokesperson left me a voice mail message saying `the Governor doesn’t do those types of things,” Chandler recalled. “What really mattered is that he signed the bill.” To Ventura’s credit, Chandler said he did have an “excellent, smart mix of people around him” but what value is an administration with a seemingly open-door policy if the governor won’t meet with you? He touts Ventura’s staff because Minnesota credit unions were ready for a breather after coming off former Gov. Arne Carlson’s tenure. Chandler said it was no secret Carlson, a Republican, “had preconceived notations about credit unions,” and was very much in “favor of banks.” That bias essentially “worked to our detriment,” Chandler said. “(Ventura’s staff) were somewhat of a blessing for us – an extraordinary staff of Democrats and Republicans that really tried to look at issues from a sincere standpoint,” Chandler recalled, adding, “they were quite accessible and open-minded.” As the California Credit Union League prepares to work with Gov.-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger and his administration, Chandler says the relationship can go two ways. “It can either be a clean slate because there is the possibility that Arnold hasn’t heard of a credit union and that can be a good thing because there’s no preconceived notions,” Chandler said, “or it can be a tense situation if he has people on his staff that are pro-bank.” Chandler said because critics are already blasting Schwarzenegger’s “moderate social views,” he predicts the Gov.-Elect will stock his staff with “hardcore Republicans.” “Many probably won’t be credit union-friendly,” Chandler warned. “But he knows he will have to run in the Republican primary in two years,” and as a result, he will probably hire a mostly partisan staff, he added. Fast forward to Minnesota’s current Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who Chandler described as a “known commodity” and a “key player” in the passage of the Minnesota Credit Union Protection Act when he previously served as House Majority Leader. Indeed, two months after Pawlenty was sworn in as Governor, Glenn Wilson, the state’s new Commissioner of Commerce and a former vice president of US Bank Mortgage, spoke at a MCUL board meeting to better acquaint himself with credit unions. “As banking institutions have grown beyond their community and state boundaries, they have lost touch with their members, – which is where credit unions come in,” Wilson said at the MCUL meeting. “The governor and I appreciate how you fit into the general economy.” Still, “we know where Gov. Pawlenty stands,” Chandler said. “He’s not against credit unions but he’s not necessarily for them.” Meanwhile, Ventura has furthered his celebrity status by launching a weekly television show on MSNBC that recently featured former California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and columnist Arianna Huffington, an independent. On Oct. 13, Ventura was also ordered to pay long-time critic Leslie Davis $258.40 for damaging a sign the author posted outside of Twin Cities Public Television Studio, where Ventura’s show is filmed. -

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