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NEW YORK-Credit union representatives were scurrying from event to event early last week during the Republican National Convention, many of which credit union groups hosted, in order to raise the political profile of credit unions. CUNA and NAFCU each have most of their lobbying staff in New York City where the event is being held as well as a number of leagues, corporate credit unions, and other related groups. One of CUNA’s main focuses at the RNC has been the distribution of the inkless child identification kits the trade association and credit unions have gotten involved in handing out through the National Child Identification Program. “We had three really great events with members of Congress leading up to the RNC to draw attention and give us some exposure for the project we’re doing at the RNC, which is handing out the child identification kits,” New York State Credit Union League Vice President of Government Amy Kramer said. Leading up to the RNC, the league held an event with Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) at GPO Federal Credit Union in Utica, then on Staten Island with Congressman Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) at a Municipal Credit Union branch, and again last Friday with Congressman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) at Lancaster Central Federal Credit Union to distribute the free kits to parents. CUNA and others also had a table set up outside the RNC Campaign Committee breakfast last Monday morning. That afternoon, Montauk Credit Union hosted an event with Fossella, CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica, child advocate Ed Smart-whose daughter Elizabeth was abducted for a year, and other credit union representatives and lawmakers to really kick off the effort, that many Republican lawmakers have been interested in being involved with, according to CUNA. Credit unions plan to distribute 30,000-40,000 kits at the RNC and NYSCUL Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mike Lanotte said New York credit unions have already distributed about 30,000 statewide. The kits are adorned with the America’s Credit Unions logo on the cover. Some of the biggest events NAFCU co-sponsored at the RNC were a cruise for House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and the Alabama delegation that ran past Lady Liberty, and a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. “One reason we’re up here is to increase the profile of NAFCU and credit unions while we’re up here,” NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler explained. With the growth of the NAFCU-PAC, the group has been able to make a much larger splash at the 2004 conventions as opposed to 2000. While NAFCU had a “small presence” in 2000, Thaler said, NAFCU will dole out between $80-90,000 for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, divided evenly between the two. Both events were successes, according to Thaler. Bachus agreed with him, Thaler said, regarding the cruise, on which the lawmaker noted there were credit union, bank, and real estate representatives on board and everyone made it back. Seeing and being seen has been a common theme of the RNC for all of the credit union advocates. While attending a breakfast in honor of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), CUNA Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs John McKechnie met with Hector Barreto, administrator of the Small Business Administration, who made a surprise visit to the reception. McKechnie walked up and told Barreto he was with CUNA and reminded him of all the work credit unions and the SBA have been doing together. “He thanked us for everything we’re trying to do for small business,” McKechnie reported, adding that these chance meetings exemplify “the value of being around.” Credit unions lobbied hard to get accepted fully into SBA’s 7(a) program last year. A number of the credit union representatives in New York have pointed out how much more informal their meetings are at the convention as opposed to when they meet on Capitol Hill. Dirck Van Deusen, senior vice president for corporate relations at Empire Corporate, noted, “It’s a great opportunity to just see the legislators in a different environment and obviously for them to see us as well, to back up all the work we do when we go down to D.C.” Association of Corporate Credit Unions CEO Mike Canning pointed out that he saw Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (Ill.) ogling a car at a General Motors-sponsored event Sunday before the convention got underway. “He came in and fixated on this 16-cylinder Cadillac that looked like the space age.,” he said. “So that’s one of those instances where you can really see somebody in their own element, not in their office.” CUNA Manager of Legislative Affairs Linda Gualtieri also emphasized that she is not surprised for lawmakers to recognize her walking the halls of Congress, but representatives are noticing her on the streets in New York as well. “A lot of members of Congress have actually come up to me on the streets of New York City, which is kind of cool,” she said, “because I think it’s easy for them to recognize me walking the halls of Congress or at a Financial Services hearing but when they just randomly come up to me on Broadway and say `hello,’ it just resonates that they do remember who the credit unions are.” CUNA lobbyists were taking advantage of their recognition to get even better known while in New York last week. Dave Klavitter, CUNA’s vice president of editorial communications, noted, “You can go into a room and see 20 members of Congress in one place. It’s almost like a Hike the Hill on steroids.” While there is a lot of entertainment at receptions and concerts during the RNC, it is also a lot of work. Credit union representatives are not only networking, but keeping there ears to the ground for many items including legislative movement and information on various campaigns they may or may not be supporting or may choose to in the future. According to CUNA’s McKechnie, there is still hope for legislation like regulatory relief, which he and CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn have discussed at length with House sponsor Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who is drafting legislation in the Senate. Kohn noted that Capito had an “obvious interest” in the activity on the Senate side. Crapo released a matrix last week of all the various proposals that have come to him for consideration in the bill. “What he’s doing is he is opening the matrix up for comment to the various groups that are involved in that effort with the hopes of getting enough feedback that he could then take those comments and formulate what he thinks could be a consensus bill,” Kohn said. “Now, I think he’s under no illusion that that would be a difficult task but what he does hope is that he can at least put something out as a marker which would serve as a jumping off point most likely for next year.” Kohn added, “He’s also pledged on many occasions to work closely with us to make sure that we’re a part of this process and I can, in fact, guarantee that he would not introduce a bill that would not include some credit union provisions in it.” He explained proponents are working to get the bill on the Senate floor without taking up too much time but the industrial loan company provisions are controversial and the credit union provisions are a problem for the banks. There is the same issue facing bankruptcy reform. While various options for pushing either bill through are under consideration, McKechnie said they are not discussing them because they do not want to tip off their opponents. NAFCU’s Thaler also attended a luncheon with Hastert where Congressman Ed Royce (Calif.) appeared and used the opportunity to discuss the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act. The lawmaker told Thaler he was “pleased to see [the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act] co-sponsors grow.” NAFCU Board Secretary Bill Cheney, president and CEO of Xerox Federal Credit Union, talked California politics and about the Schwarzenegger speech with Royce. “It’s good to have that presence and for them to see credit unions there,” Thaler said. Another hot subject being raised by credit unions at the RNC is maintaining their tax exemption. CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose has said CUNA staffers came armed with extra copies of Straight Talk, the trade’s new publication to counter banker attacks. “As you might imagine, it’s going to be very hurried, although there’s going to be some time, and you just have to pick your opportunities when you get a chance with a member,” he said. McKechnie said he stood next to Representative Clay Shaw (R-Calif.) on the floor of the convention hall during California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech and used the time to pump up credit unions’ tax exemption. “He just said that credit unions need to keep on our toes,” McKechnie related. Gose concluded, “It’s all about having an opportunity to have some time with these folks and of course that’s one of the things that the convention does, as well as puts you in the same light with many of the other groups, with a little bit more long-term political clout or, maybe, deeper pockets.” Aside from the legislative side, the convention is a political hot bed, or “candy store,” as Gose referred to it. “For these people, this is the Superbowl,” he said. Issues they discuss are important, especially in, say, a swing state like Missouri, when analyzing where to put CULAC money. Gose pointed out CULAC has around $600,000-$700,000 to contribute to races at this point. McKechnie agreed. At a lunch with Congresswoman Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.), he said the majority of the conversation was about the Florida Senate primaries and the Oklahoma Senate race and the Virginia congressman who is not running again due to personal scandal. “Everything CUNA and the leagues have done during these conventions has been an attempt to maximize our visibility and to underscore the point that we’re players in the process,” he said. Thaler explained that NAFCU, too, has been asked to look at supporting some races when they return to their offices. He was unsure off-hand how much money NAFCU-PAC had on hand at this point but, he said, “We’re comfortable with what we have on hand for participating in races we want to and need to coming down the stretch.” [email protected]

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