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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – With a month to go, the turnout for that well-hyped Washington trip by the Oklahoma Bankers Association to attack credit unions is a bit slow coming together with only 14 bankers signed up though the trade group said it still hopes “for a better showing.” On its Web pages, OBA Chairman Douglas Tippens of El Reno lamented that “if we’re going to be effective” on the lobbying front, more bank voices would be needed in the nation’s capital during the trade group’s annual Washington visit Sept. 19-21. Tippens wrote that 14 bankers “is not enough” and the lack of registrations signals a message that “is not a positive one” to lawmakers. The trade group has 270 member banks. The El Reno banker also questions whether the OBA’s focus “is off target or is it complacency because of income bankers are experiencing.” In e-mails, letters and media articles, the OBA leadership for weeks has been pressing its members to become active in the national anti-CU campaign spearheaded by the American Bankers Association and early this month began mailing ABA-packaged “Credit Union Toolkits” aimed at keeping the anti-CU momentum going “The toolkit includes letters to Senators Inhofe and Nickles and to your Congressman,” noted the OBA Web site, referring to Oklahoma Republican Congressmen James Inhofe and Don Nickles. “Just copy the letter onto your letterhead and send.” The toolkit also includes letters to the editor, ads and “other materials to help your bank’s employees understand the importance of this issue to their pocketbooks.” The OBA Web site also implores member banks to take part in the organization’s “Rock the Vote” campaign designed to bring out “all your colleagues, friends, family members and anyone else you can think of” on election day to support the anti-CU cause on the tax exemption. In explaining the low turnout so far for the Washington trip, Roger Beverage, OBA’s president and chief staff officer, said the registration rate is about as expected and besides, “it’s quality that counts,” an apparent reference to OBA leaders planning to make the trek to Washington. “We’ll have no trouble presenting our message.” In a comeback, Beverage’s counterpart, Bob Bianchini, president/CEO of the Oklahoma Credit Union League, quipped, “they might get better attendance if they had more interesting items on their agenda – like how best to serve their customers.” Many within CUNA and state credit union leagues maintain there is a genuine lack of enthusiasm among rank and file bankers in keeping up the attack on CU’s with only a handful of top national leaders, like Utah’s Harris Simmons, of Zions Bancorp., pushing the cause aggressively. However, the top brass in CUNA contend they have no plans to let their guard down for the long bitter battle with bankers on tax exemption and they are preparing for continuing skirmishes in all the states and in Congress. The OBA’s Beverage said the registration trip could be adding several more to the list, but the annual Washington trip has never reached “the 20-40 level before 9/11″ referring to travel cutbacks after Sept. 2001. Tippens in this week’s “OBA Update” again emphasized that the trade group’s “No. 1 priority” is CUs and yet there is a lack of motivation to join the Washington trip. “Whatever the reason, our fight won’t last long if only a handful of bankers care to show interest,” wrote Tippens. The Oklahoma League said it will be conducting its annual trip to D.C. as part of CUNA’s “National Hike the Hill” starting Sept. 21-23. A spokesman said it was uncertain how many members would be taking part in that trip “since we have a scheduling problem – our annual meeting is Sept. 22-24.” The League holds its annual conference at the Southern Hills Marriott in Tulsa on those dates. In another section of the OBA Update, the trade group mentions a separate letter writing campaign to congressmen on the CU issue to be completed by Sept. 1 and on that 2,676 letters have been written. Albert Kelly, an OBA past chairman and president of SpiritBank, Bristow, says that campaign needs to be perked up to reach a 5,000 letter goal. -

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