WASHINGTON-The Montana Credit Union Network is proving you do not have to be inside the beltway-or anywhere near the East Coast even-to catch the political bug. Representatives from the league, CUNA, and Montana credit unions visited the Capitol Hill Offices of all three of their federal legislators-Senator Max Baucus (D), Senator Conrad Burns (R), and Congressman Dennis Rehberg (R)-Sept. 15 during a Hike the Hill. Missoula Federal Credit Union President and CEO Gary Clark remarked that he found it easier to meet with the actual members of Congress in their Washington offices than back home because they seem even busier there than they are in D.C. Clark has been `hiking the hill’-though not always with the Montana group because he was formerly at an Oregon credit union-since 1981. He reminded the senator of the Davis family, whom his $210 million credit union is working with to help save their home. Also on the trip was Bear Paw Credit Union President and CEO Al Vukasin, Jr., who has been a `hiker’ for the last seven years. He provided Burns an update on the $52 million credit union’s work with one of the nearby Native American reservations. Not only does the credit union send Vice President of Organizational Development and Administration April Baiamonte out to the reservation every Wednesday to provide basic financial services, financial education plays a big role out there. The credit union just received a grant to put two ATMs on the reservation from the National Credit Union Foundation and they have received funds from NCUA’s Technical Assistance Grant program for laptops and other items. Bear Paw just submitted its third TAG application to cover marketing costs, according to Baiamonte. “We could never afford to do this program alone because it will never make money,” Vukasin said. MCUN Director of Public Relations and Communications Jill Jarman pointed out that Missoula FCU had already made a financial contribution to victims of Hurricane Katrina and Bear Paw was looking into it. Senator Burns was very interested in Katrina relief and rebuilding efforts. Jarman also offered campaign support to the senator, who is up for reelection in 2006 and won his last election with just 51% of the vote, in the way of manpower. “It’s going to be a ground war,” Burns, who is seeking his fourth term in the Senate, admitted. [email protected]

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