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TULSA, Okla. – With this state now high on the list for bank attacks, the Oklahoma Credit Union League this month mounted a vigorous, new CU-linked “Get Out the Vote” offensive aimed at winning industry support from state and federal lawmakers at the ballot box. The League’s registration drive, being conducted in CU lobbies and at teller lines, is designed to encourage CU members to become more engaged in the electoral process, explained Lara Denning, assistant vice president of communications. “We have put together a voter registration packet statewide with registration cards available for distribution in credit union lobbies,” said Denning. So far some 20 CUs, principally in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, have signed up to distribute the cards which are filled out by members and then mailed to local county election officials. The voter drive comes as new anti-CU rhetoric-some of it strident and inflammatory-began appearing on the Web site of the Oklahoma Bankers Association from its chairman, Douglas E. Tippens of El Reno, and its CEO, Roger M Beverage calling on bankers to become “energized” in contacting lawmakers in Washington and Oklahoma City for legislation to halt CU growth. Apart from lifting the tax exemption, Tippens urged Oklahoma bankers to write congressmen opposing the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act on safety and soundness grounds claiming CURIA is a “ploy” by CUs to “significantly expand lending limits” and “to abuse the tax-exempt status at the expense of taxpaying citizens-corporate and individual.” The actions of large “new breed” CUs “border on fraud against the American and Oklahoma taxpayer,” wrote Tippens in “OBA Update” appearing on the organization’s Web page. Tippens also appealed to peers to sign “commitment forms” as part of OBA’s “Operation Credit Union” campaign spearheaded nationally by the American Bankers Association. Tippens, who also is president of Gold Bank in El Reno, said also “my goal is to have 50 bankers” meet with” the state’s congressional delegation Sept. 19-22 during its annual Hill visit. The Washington meeting “will show that we are indeed serious about the credit union issue,” wrote Tippens. The El Reno banker also appealed to his peers to join in a “Rock the Vote” campaign announced in April which aims to thwart CU voter strength. “Rock the Vote” refers to a challenge laid down by Brad Rock, president of a small Long Island, N.Y. bank and a leader in the ABA’s anti-CU cause, who spoke at OBA’s annual convention. Rock told the OBA convention that CUs “have a bull’s eye on your customers” and are doing it by exploiting a “price advantage.” The latest “OBA Update” also suggested members need to act “while the iron is hot” in the Presidential race by cornering both “President Bush and John Kerry” on the tax exempt issue. Complaining of long-term “complacency” and “worry over other things” by bankers instead of fighting CUs, Tippens of El Reno, praised the ABA for taking an aggressive stance to convince Congress to lift the exemption. “With the issue on everyone’s mind, it’s time to push forward and make sure those running for Congress know our position on what we expect,” wrote Tippens. The comments of Tippens and of Beverage, the OBA president, have figured prominently in news articles in Tulsa and Oklahoma City papers drawing sharp rebukes from League President Robert Bianchini and Tinker Federal CU, the state’s largest. Tinker executives including its president/CEO Michael Kloiber have warned CUs in the state the ABA seems to have “sunk to new lows” by declaring “all out war on CUs” setting it as a priority over more pressing national issues. Meanwhile, the League said its voter drive which kicked off May 9 will continue through July 2 in time for the July 27 primary. In its literature, the League noted that “only half the people older than 18 voted during the 2000 Presidential election.” In its “Get Out the Vote” advisory, the League said CU members can “just stop by your credit union lobby and register during the month of June.” “Or register to vote online with Credit Union National Association Voter Registration” at the CUNA website, the League suggested. The “simple step by step process” to become a registered or to change registration “will only take a few minutes,” the advisory concluded. -

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