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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.-More than 190,000 signatures were collected by the California and Nevada credit union leagues in support of maintaining credit unions’ tax-exempt status. The leagues achieved 70% participation in a campaign that collected 190,122 signatures from credit union members, urging credit unions’ continued tax exemption. Four hundred and twenty of California and Nevada’s 608 credit unions participated in the three-month campaign that ended recently. “For our initial effort in bringing threats against the credit union tax exemption to the attention of credit union members, this is an outstanding result,” Kelly Purcell, the California League’s acting director of federal government affairs, said. “This turnout will help us prove to elected officials that members care about their credit unions. They understand the differences between banks and credit unions, they appreciate the important contributions credit unions make to the lives of ordinary Americans, and they want credit unions to remain tax-exempt so they can continue this mission.” Credit unions used various methods of collecting signatures, including on-hold messages, newsletter articles, targeted mailings, PowerPoint plasma screen slides, and branch-to-branch competitions. After signing the petition, some credit union members also e-mailed unsolicited messages of support to the league. One credit union member wrote, “When I lost my first wife and I was a single dad with three little girls, it was Kern Schools FCU years ago who loaned money to me and gave me full banking services,” wrote Edward Mooney, Jr., a Palmdale, Calif., resident “No bank would step in. For years Kern Schools FCU has been there for us. I can get bank services now, but I will never forget who stood by me in those hard times.” Mooney formerly lived in the congressional district represented by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R), who has suggested hearings on the tax exemption of certain non-profits, including credit unions. Of the signatures, about 20,000 were gathered online. Individual users to the league’s Web site jumped from an average of 1,100 hits a day to more than 5,800 during the drive. “Most likely it’s the petition drive that caused this spike in site visits. It’s one more measure of how much members care about their credit union,” Purcell explained. “It’s also encouraging because we have a wealth of information on our site about the things that make credit unions unique, plus links to our Match Up membership program. Hopefully members are learning more about credit unions and the ways they help their communities, and will pass this information on to their friends, whether they’re members or not.” The California and Nevada petitions will be presented to members of Congress during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference next month. CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica urged credit unions last year to take up such a petition campaign. CUNA has not been gathering nationwide totals and not all credit union leagues have participated, according to CUNA Vice President for Communications and Media Outreach Pat Keefe. He said the leagues are deciding on their own how to use the signatures; some will be delivered in Washington and others in the districts where they were collected. He added that some leagues are collecting statewide, while others are targeting specific congressional districts. CUNA is using the feedback it does receive from the petition drive to take a reading on matters, such as allocation of resources, as it fine tunes grassroots efforts for the coming months, Keefe said. [email protected]

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