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WASHINGTON-Try as they might, the bankers are not creating much of a chink in credit unions’ political armor. Despite the latest tactics of the banking trade associations, including the American Bankers Association, America’s Community Bankers, and the Independent Community Bankers Association’s recent coalition, credit union support on Capitol Hill continues to grow. In the last year President George W. Bush, Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry, and Treasury Secretary John Snow have come out in support of the credit union tax exemption; a bipartisan group of 60 lawmakers have signed onto the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 3579); and numerous other members of Congress have come out in support of the credit union tax-exempt status. Credit union lobbyists have said they actually have more supporters privately, but prefer not to rock the boat right before election time. “We always have known that we have a large reservoir of goodwill on Capitol Hill,” CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn said. The banker attacks have simply offered credit unions the opportunity to better gauge their support, he explained. He added, “We are very grateful to the bankers to demonstrate this.” NAFCU Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said his organization is pleased with the backing credit unions have received and added confidently, “You’ll see that number continue to grow.” There are a variety of reasons the credit union message has resonated so well in Washington, D.C., according to the lobbyists. “Eighty-five million members around the county. That helps,” Kohn said. “There are credit unions in every district and I think members (of Congress) realize who the owners are.Those members are their constituents,” Thaler pointed out. Kohn added that a good number of members of Congress and their staff are credit union members and see and appreciate the grassroots democracy at work and the services they provide and how they provide them. “Lawmakers understand credit unions are there for their members. Lawmakers understand that credit unions offer services that aren’t so profitable,” Thaler said. Additionally, he explained that the bankers come to Washington with a very negative message that does not play as well with Congress. He held up the hearing in the House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee a couple years ago on regulatory relief when the bankers spent the bulk of their time complaining about the credit union provisions. Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) reprimanded them. More recently, a hearing on regulatory relief for community banks earlier this year became a credit union bashing session. CUNA and NAFCU and their members have worked hard to get credit unions known on Capitol Hill. “We’ve gotten out members very actively engaged in talking to their members of Congress,” Kohn said Thaler added that it is important for credit unions to get involved in their districts as well as visiting Washington, D.C. “Credit union support in Congress remains strong and that comes through credit union grassroots and efforts here in the District,” he stated. [email protected]

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