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Anyone writing about credit unions learned early on that there is always plenty of good news and bad news to write about. What’s a little trickier is determining which is which depending on the perspective brought to bear on a particular news item. There are plenty of recent examples. Here are just a few selected at random: The chairman of the House and Ways Committee said earlier this year that he planned to take a close look at tax-exempt entities, including tax-exempt credit unions. That of course is bad news for credit unions. Making it worse, banking industry lobbyists pounced on his remarks and began to spin his comments in ways that made it appear that the powerful House and Ways Committee had decided to do a study solely on credit unions, period. Not so. The good news is that doing any kind of report on all tax-exempt entities would be a daunting task and one that would have the potential of stepping on 1.8 million political toes. That is the number of organizations in this country that are tax-exempt besides credit unions. It is doubtful that the House and Ways Committee Chairman intended to single credit unions out from that number, or that he feels his committee has the wherewithal to examine even a fraction of the 1.8 million tax-exempt groups serving millions of committee member constituents. Then there is the bad news that three of the many national banking industry trade groups have decided to form a loosey-goosey working relationship among them to jointly do battle against credit unions. They could represent a significant force except for the good news, which is, they hate each other. Over the years they have spent almost as much time carping about their rival banking groups as they have in providing member services. These three groups will never agree on anything. That includes the best way to bash credit unions. First they will argue over which group should provide the chairman. Then about funding. Then about what is the best strategy? Trying to do a joint brochure, press release, or credit union attack advertisement will produce nothing but a camel with the word horse scrawled on its side. Sometimes good news surfaces disguised as bad news. Case in point is the world’s dumbest public relations move represented by the American Bankers Association’s announcement that they have decided to pay $1,000 to any banker who best captures a credit union doing something wrong (in their opinion), or as ABA prefers to put it, “straying from their mission.” This should be bad news, but because it will backfire big time (it has already started) for the banking industry, it is actually good news for credit unions. What a great way for banking lobbyists’ true colors to be showcased than them turning into bounty hunters to capture and kill credit unions for cold, hard cash. Whatever ABA PR person came up with this lulu ought to be fired on the spot! Initial feedback indicates that if it were up to Congressional observers they would be. More good news on the ABA’s anti-credit union photo competition and at the same time, kudos to the fast acting Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. Turning a negative into a positive, this league quickly announced a photo contest for credit unions to show examples of them doing good, as in community service and helping members in need. If all CU leagues did this, more good news for credit unions and bad news for the banking industry. More good news. After hiding their light under a bushel basket (on purpose) for most of their existence, credit unions are finally stepping out into the mainstream media spotlight. In just the last few weeks, credit unions have received favorable mention in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, a growing number of major dailies, and a number of cable channels. In most cases, reporters took it upon themselves to make comparisons between credit unions and banks. Credit unions come out on top in both statements of fact and anecdotal evidence included in the stories. The related bad news is that there has also been a record amount of credit unions versus banks publicity appearing in the media. However, what makes it bad is that the banking industry has generated it by coming out first, usually with an op-ed piece blasting credit unions with the same oh, same oh. Then credit union spokespersons respond with a letter to the editor. In a number of cases, even credit union members have weighed in with a letter in defense of credit unions. To turn this good news, bad news, good news scenario into all good news, credit unions need to make the first strike and let the bankers (and their customers? Yeah, right!) come to their rescue. But who’s really complaining? The number of folks stepping up to give the straight scoop on credit unions is refreshing. More good news for credit unions: more and more important Congressional leaders are speaking out on behalf of credit unions even going so far as to state for the record that they will oppose any attempt to remove the long-standing credit union tax-exemption. The bad news in the banking camp is that the silence supporting their all-out credit union war is deafening. Finally there’s this good news/bad news. The banking industry continues to rack up mega profits. That’s good news for the banking industry. But in their argument that credit union growth is hurting their efforts to make a buck, it can only be considered big time bad news for the banking industry. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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