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HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The campaign by chapters in the Kansas Credit Union Association to liven up political advocacy by reaching out to the media was brought to the home of a top leader in the American Bankers Association’s “Operation Credit Union.” “We actually thought he might show up and we were prepared,” said Todd Brunner, vice president of the $85 million Hutchinson Credit Union, referring to Earl McVicker, CEO of Central National Bank here and recently appointed a top member of Operation CU, the ABA panel of community bankers formed more than a year ago to lift the tax exemption and clamp down on CU expansion. Brunner was referring to a well-publicized Legislative Forum sponsored by the League’s Wheat Belt Chapter Oct. 14 at the Cosmosphere Space Museum. More than 100 attendees packed a meeting room in the city museum to hear seven candidates share their views on everything from gun control to school property taxes while also voicing CU support. The forum, of which Brunner served as organizer, drew live coverage from two radio stations and the Hutchinson News with the wide publicity a first for a chapter event of this kind. Chapter officers had alerted media in advance suggesting reporters might want to attend the chapter reception for potential news stories emanating from candidates running for state and federal offices. Advance stories carried a mention of CU sponsorship but “darn it all, the main story in the Hutchinson News didn’t even mention that credit unions sponsored the forum,” complained Claudine Corkins, Chapter Chairman and president/CEO of the $7.5 million Bell CU. Still, she said, “we don’t usually get a live broadcast on local radio of our Legislative Forum.” She said she spotted a few local bankers in the hall but McVicker, who was slated to move up to ABA chairman in two years, was not among them. Brunner of Hutchinson CU said questions from the audience and candidates were wide ranging and supportive of credit unions “although there was one candidate who gave an answer right out of the bankers’ handbook and it was obvious bankers got to him.” Now, said Brunner, the goal of chapter leaders will be to talk to the individual in hopes of swaying his views. While the chapter here was following the lead of the Capital Chapter in Topeka which decided this fall to “upscale” meetings and create a more professional environment, the South Central Chapter in Wichita said it has joined the Topeka chapter in sending letters to area lawmakers soliciting signatures on a “support petition” against the tax exemption. “I’m glad the Capital Chapter shared with us good ideas and I think this is a message that needs to be spread out there,” said Marilyn Wells, chapter chairman and president of Catholic Family FCU of Wichita. Ron Smeltzer, executive vice president of Super Chief CU in Topeka and chairman of the Capital Chapter, has advocated Kansas CUs act more forcefully to contact local lawmakers to counter bank attacks in much the same way CUNA carries the fight at the federal level. Smeltzer, in particular, has advocated chief executives become more involved in chapter activities “making it a point to attend chapter meetings themselves” “Instead of simply posting a chapter flyer in the employee break room, we asked them to actively promote the importance of staff involvement,” said Smeltzer. “Since chapter attendance is generally voluntary and scheduled for non-business hours, we asked them to not only pay for their staff person to attend but to pay” for spouses and guests. CEO involvement “is a must” in the fight against bankers and “the CEOs of the Capital Chapter are to congratulated for their support,” he said. -

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