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TRONA, Calif. – The battle of credit unions vs. banks is being fought on many fronts, including this 25,000-member desert community located on a state highway between Bakersfield and Death Valley. Eric A. Bruen, CEO of $14 million Searles Lake Community Federal Credit Union, published a guest editorial July 7 in the Daily Independent, a local paper in nearby Ridgecrest, defending the tax-free status of credit unions. Bruen’s editorial was in response to local banker Lois Beres’s recently published editorial, arguing that credit unions deserve to be taxed. Bruen said this was actually the second rebuttal he’s written in response to Beres’ remarks, as the banker wrote a similar editorial approximately one year ago. Bruen took the bankers to task in the paper, educating local residents about the banking lobby’s multi-million dollar Operation Credit Union campaign. He also presented the economic impact of credit union taxation, explaining the loss of jobs resulting from inevitable mergers would offset any gains from credit union taxes. Driving his point home, Bruen commented on the effect taxation would have locally, writing “the real loss here is that the members and volunteers who have depended on these institutions in rural communities and small towns across America will see their credit union vanish, to be replaced by an ATM machine and a telephone answering system.” Bruen said the paper delayed running his editorial until the credit union’s chairman, Marshall Holloway called the paper asking why the piece had not yet been published. Holloway, who happens to be mayor of Ridgecrest, had little trouble convincing the paper to publish the rebuttal. Bruen’s credit union roots run deep: the young CEO is the son of Charles A. Bruen, President/CEO of $530 million First Entertainment Credit Union in Hollywood. “I’ve grown up around the movement, and this is my opportunity to protect the tax-exempt status of credit unions in my community,” he said. -

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