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WASHINGTON-Though Congress is technically on recess until after Labor Day, credit union lobbyists are still working critical credit union issues. This August, Capitol Hill is not the ghost town it usually becomes because many lawmakers are still in town to attend hearings in the aftermath of the 9/11 Report. “We have several things that we’re trying to focus on and concentrate on during this recess,” CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn said. “I’d say chief among those is our continuing effort on our part and on our members part to pound home the credit union difference and focus on the bank attacks and the importance of our tax exempt status.” CUNA has begun distributing its “Straight Talk” document, a recently completed booklet explaining the credit union difference and bankers’ motives to tax the industry, as well as collecting additional statements of support from members of Congress for the tax exemption. Kohn added that CUNA is continuing to work to add cosponsors to the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 3579), even though lawmakers cannot officially sign on to the bill during the recess. The trade group is also working to distribute the Child ID kits it has recently teamed up to create with the National Child Identification Program, particularly working up to the Republican National Convention. During the RNC, from Aug. 29 through Sept. 2, CUNA will be hosting a plethora of events, starting with a dinner with House Financial Services Committee Member Bob Ney (R-Ohio) that Sunday, and a reception for the National Child Identification Program at Montauk Credit Union featuring the New York Republican congressional delegation and credit union guests. CUNA also has planned events in honor of House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (Ala.), CURIA’s main sponsor Ed Royce (Calif.), and Senate Banking Committee Member John Sununu (N.H.). It will be hosting events honoring the House Financial Services Committee, the Georgia (including a concert by Martina McBride) and Tennessee Republican delegations, and the New York Republican State Committee delegates (featuring New York Governor George Pataki and U.S. Congressman Tom Reynolds). In the meantime, Sheriff David Huffman (R), who was heavily supported by CUNA and the state league, faced off against State Representative Patrick McHenry (R) in a tight primary run off. Though absentee ballots were still being counted at press time, Huffman was down by 124 votes. The Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA had contributed $5,000 to Huffman, a credit union board advisory committee member, as well as spending $50,000 (according to Federal Election Commission reports) on positive radio spots for him. CUNA Vice President for Political Affairs Richard Gose said they knew it was going to be a tough race since McHenry had the backing of the North Carolina Republican establishment. “There’s hope, but it’s an uphill climb,” he added. In the past, similar independent expenditures, like the radio advertisements for Huffman, have been successful for CULAC, helping win elections for Congressmen John Porter (R-Nev.) and Michael Michaud (D-Maine) in the 2002 elections. These were CULAC’s first foray into independent expenditures and Gose said, “I suspect we’ll do some more.” Though nothing is planned right now, the lobby group is looking for opportunities where it can make a difference in a race, he said. On the legislative side, CUNA Legislative Counsel for Tax, Pension, and Housing Leon Peace said CUNA is still working to get Individual Development Accounts on the Senate’s agenda, though it does not look too hopeful as time ticks away. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has been pushing it though, and he has also introduced a provision for KIDs Accounts-Kids Investment Development Accounts. Under this provision, babies would receive $500 from the Treasury Department once they receive a social security number that could not be accessed until they reach 18 years of age. “It basically begins the savings process at birth. We’re going to be working very hard on that,” Peace said. [email protected]

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