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WASHINGTON – Look out, the Association of Corporate Credit Unions wants to up its political profile and its corporate credit union members say go for it. It would be harsh to say corporates are overlooked in the political environment, but still even corporate leaders themselves say there is confusion among lawmakers’ staffers and lawmakers on where corporates fit into the equation. The ACCU, which views itself as an independent voice of the corporates though it has a management agreement with CUNA, wants to change all that and one major step it’s taking is being active at the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions. For example, it is spending $25,000 to be one of 15 major sponsors of a luncheon in honor of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as well as a reception for Ken Mehlman, manager of the Bush-Cheney campaign. On the Democratic side, it plans on partnering with NAFCU for a celebration in honor of Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. Despite its ties with CUNA, the ACCU does meet regularly with the top execs at NAFCU, which has eight corporate credit union members and its own corporate-focused group. “We just want to establish ourselves as an additional competent, politically involved group that can help the whole movement when it gets into trouble with things like taxation,” said Michael Canning, executive director of the ACCU. Canning said the group will be careful to focus its efforts equitably on both parties. “We definitely want to be a non-partisan trade association. I have not in my year and a half picked up on a bent towards any of the particular parties.” As is often the case, right now there are not many issues on the Hill that significantly impact corporates, so Canning said the ACCU wants to join the fight with credit unions and other trade associations against credit union taxation. Corporates got a hard lesson recently in how fast things can change in the regulatory environment when a local IRS office in Brooklyn, N.Y. called into question the tax exempt status of Constitution State Corporate in Connecticut. Though the threat seems minimal, Canning said it’s things like that that make him want to ensure corporates are recognized politically. Corporate credit union CEOs don’t seem to have any problems with their ACCU dues money going to playing politics. Joe Herbst, president/CEO of Empire Corporate FCU, said he knows all too well the problems of corporates being an unknown to lawmakers. “In 1997 when we were having all that trouble (CU Membership Access Act), we went to Capitol Hill, and they were like `who are you guys.’ That’s not a good feeling,” said Herbst. Herbst’s corporate is one of the most active politically. Just a few weeks ago it visited the Hill with members of some of the state leagues from the states the corporate serves. Empire started doing this in the late `90s and Herbst says now it is a known entity. Herbst says the time to get in front of lawmakers is when there aren’t any pressing issues, because eventually there will be. “There are constantly changes on Capitol Hill. You never know when something is going to come up,” said Herbst. Lee Butke, president/CEO of Corporate One, said the ACCU is right on the money with its political goals. “In my opinion we as corporates represent credit unions, and with credit unions being so politically active, it is certainly a wise thing for us to do it. We personally spend a lot of time here with the Ohio League working on political issues in the state,” said Butke. Georgia Central CU President/CEO Greg Moore said spending resources on political efforts is money well spent. “We are pleased that ACCU is trying to increase the visibility, especially considering the complexity of the regulatory environment and especially in light of the taxation issue out there,” said Moore. [email protected]

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