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BOSTON – As the political tongue wagging and parties rage on in Boston at the Democratic National Convention, representatives from the credit union community are in the thick of it making connections and getting known. CUNA, NAFCU and a number of state leagues hosted and attended several events last week in efforts to raise awareness of credit unions and their issues before the large group of Democratic policymakers and their staff members. Representatives from U.S. Central and the Association of Corporate Credit Unions also made their presence known. Credit union lobbyists have contended that while not a lot of concrete work gets accomplished at these conventions, the networking opportunities are priceless. “We kicked off things [Sunday] night and had a great event,” CUNA Political Director Karen Kincer said. “CUNA and the Tennessee Credit Union League were the hosts of the Tennessee delegation welcoming party.” About 200 delegates attended, she said, many of whom were state legislators and a number of U.S. Congressmen were expected as well. CUNA and NAFCU both participated in the Blue Dogs (a coalition of conservative Democrats) kick-off party. Also some of NAFCU’s staff attended the Red Sox v. Yankees game where Senator John Kerry made a surprise appearance, NAFCU Senior Legislative Representative Murray Chanow said. “Today is really highlighted by two events,” he explained about July 26. “Some of us will be attending an event with Minority Leader (Tom) Daschle (S.D.) and Assistant Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) as well as an event late night that we are cosponsoring to honor Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.). We’re expecting 1,100 of our closest friends at that event.” That late night event was a Little Feat concert. At the same time, CUNA was sponsoring a Goo Goo Dolls concert, primarily attended by Democratic Senate staff, according to CUNA Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs John McKechnie. Senators Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), and Bill Nelson (Fla.) stopped by, he added, as well as Senate hopeful, Congressman Chris John (La.). “It was a huge success,” McKechnie said. “It was packed. We had a few more people than we thought.” Prior to all the musical entertainment, CUNA representatives spent some time at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn and McKechnie used the opportunity to meet up with some old time baseball players, as well as some lawmakers like House Financial Services Committee Member Gary Ackerman (N.Y). “It’s just a fun thing they do where they open up the field for batting practice.” Kohn explained. While at Fenway, McKechnie stopped and talked with House Judiciary Committee Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). While he has not seen eye-to-eye with credit unions on bankruptcy reform, McKechnie said he still took the opportunity to let the congressman know that credit unions were excited to be participating in the DNC, which Nadler seemed pleased by. The next day NAFCU took a swing at the event. Chanow said he hit three balls in a row into the outfield, but his cohort, Dillon Shea, NAFCU associate director of legislative affairs, did not get any out of the infield. But credit union representatives were swinging for the fences when it came to making it known credit unions were poised as key players in the political arena. McKechnie said he happened to run into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the street. It is these “unscheduled, impromptu meetings that make these conventions worthwhile,” he said. The atmosphere is completely different at a convention than it is in Washington, D.C. he explained, and you generally can get more time with the members. CUNA and NAFCU, as well as representatives from the Association of Corporate Credit Unions and a number of state leagues, attended numerous events throughout the convention, too many to list. For example, Kohn said he had four events to attend from 4-7:30 pm on July 27, then after the convention that night, he had three more. Here are just a few: * A `thank you’ breakfast by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer; * An event with Senate Banking Committee Member Chris Dodd (Conn.); * An event with House Financial Services Committee Member Joe Crowley (N.Y.); * Lunch with House Financial Services Committee Member Brad Sherman (Calif.); * The “Breaux Beach Bash” hosted by retiring Senator John Breaux (La.); * An event for Senate Banking Committee Member Evan Bayh (Ind.); * An event honoring the Democratic Whip Team: Hoyer and Senator Harry Reid (Nev.); * A party for Senate Banking Committee Member Tim Johnson (S.D.); and * A breakfast with House Financial Services Committee Member Brad Miller (N.C.). One of CUNA’s big highlights was meeting with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm last Wednesday morning. Kohn and Michigan Credit Union League Vice President Patrick LaPine gave a presentation to the entire Michigan delegation on credit unions focusing on their `people helping people philosophy,’ particularly when it comes to children. Kohn explained how credit unions were the third largest corporate contributor to Children’s Miracle Network; CUNA’s involvement in the National Endowment for Financial Education; and CUNA’s recent partnership with the Child Identification Program. CUNA and America’s credit unions distributed approximately 30,000 inkless child fingerprint identification kits during the Democratic National Convention this week. “America’s credit unions have a history of assisting needy children through such worthy organizations as the Children’s Miracle Network,” CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica said. “Our partnership with the National Child Identification Program is a natural extension of the credit union movement’s dedication to community involvement and our `people helping people’ philosophy.” CUNA is using the DNC to jumpstart its involvement in distributing the inkless fingerprint identification kits in concern with the National Child Identification Program. The program is endorsed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the American Football Coaches Association and had garnered support from key members of Congress and other groups. The kits have the “America’s Credit Unions” logo on them and are included in the delegate bags at both the Democratic and Republican conventions. “After that, we were able to meet with Governor Granholm privately,” Kohn said. Granholm, who was scheduled to speak Wednesday evening at the convention, serves as the liaison to the Democratic Governors Association. CUNA and the league talked with her about check cashing, remittances, and promoting credit unions as alternatives to payday lenders. Kohn described her as a “very strong credit union supporter” and added, “there was an obvious interest there.” Overall, McKechnie stated, “This the fifth time that CUNA has had a presence at the national conventions starting in `88, and I think the events that we’ve got planned this time and the profile that CUNA and credit unions are going to have at this convention is unquestionably the best we’ve ever had. The conventions, it’s true I think they’re perceived as nothing more than an infomercial for the parties that are throwing them, but there’s a lot of opportunities at these conventions for credit unions to make sure that the lawmakers and the political community know just how important of a player credit unions are.” The DNC ran through Thursday evening when Senator John Kerry (Mass.) was expected to formally accept the nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate. On Thursday evening, an event was held by the fire fighters association and the Democratic Leadership Committee, where Kerry was expected to make his first stop after accepting the nomination, which NAFCU was attending. CUNA and NAFCU representatives planned to be there the entire convention. [email protected]

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