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PHOENIX – Now it’s Arizona’s turn to be a hot spot for bank attacks in the media with two anti-CU articles generated by the Arizona Bankers Association appearing in the Arizona Republic and a local business journal. Both of the anti-CU articles, which claim CUs are “abandoning their common bond mission” and becoming bank-like, appeared to be the work of the new, 28-year-old president/CEO of the ABA, Tanya Wheeless who took over the job in March. One anti-CU letter to the editor of the Arizona Business Journal specifically targets Desert Schools FCU and Arizona FCU for failing to help low- and moderate-income families while spending large sums on advertising for business loans in newspapers. Wheeless charges the two spend “big bucks” in media advertising including funding a 12-page insert in the Journal to drum up commercial business instead of aiding low-income members. The insert was actually funded by the Arizona Credit Union System as part of International Credit Union Day in November. A separate interview/profile of Wheeless in the Arizona Republic’s Dec. 12 Sunday edition includes questions by the ABA staffer on “how far will Congress let credit unions go without rethinking the tax exemption.” A spokesman for Desert Schools said it “regrets the animosity” from the ABA as evident in the articles but expects to continue supporting the low-income adding “we are concentrating on serving our members” rather than engaging in a tit-for-tat with bankers. Ron Westad, president/CEO of Arizona FCU, said it found the Wheeless attack “humorous” and that the CU’s record “speaks for itself” in aiding the underserved. Arizona FCU agrees with Desert Schools, he said, that it had no interest in engaging the banking lobby in a media battle. “We’re going to get our message out not in some business journal with a limited readership but with the general public and before Congress where it really matters.” Meanwhile, Austin DeBey, governmental affairs specialist for the league, said the articles were just “another attempt by the banking industry to inaccurately characterize credit unions and justify their unsupportable position.” Making fun of one reference by Wheeless that banks give out cookies to their customers, DeBey noted that banks try to feign hospitality “and warm us up by telling us that community banks sometimes give cookies to their customers. We return our profits to our members in the form of lower interest rates on loans and they return their profits to their customers by giving them cookies.” DeBey also cited an observation from Wheeless in the Journal article that CUs are non-profit and member owned “and that is why we are tax-exempt.” The league said it thanks the ABA president “for making the argument for us.” [email protected]

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