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WASHINGTON-Sure, setting up an event like NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus can be a bit of a headache, but, in the long run, getting all those credit union officials to visit lawmakers in Washington, D.C. makes the lobbyists’ jobs easier. “NAFCU was started to represent credit unions around the country on Capitol Hill as well as other areas,” NAFCU Director of Political Affairs Murray Chanow explained. “Caucus was started as a vehicle to provide that access.” Having real credit union officials asking their legislators for help is more effective than just sending a paid lobbyist in. Member contacts “can make our job a little bit easier,” he said. Chanow, who had been involved in the last eight Caucuses and run the last five, said the evolution of NAFCU members in their Capitol Hill visits is interesting. They become more comfortable with making their case in person. “I’ve seen the members’ growth in terms of their ability to work with the members of Congress,” he commented. Still, sometimes, they ask Chanow and other NAFCU lobbyists to come along, which allows them to see some interesting stuff. Chanow omitted the name of the credit union official to protect the innocent, but detailed how one visit did not go so well. During a 1998 visit to then-Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alphonse D’Amato, a delegate asked for his stance on the credit union tax exemption, which he was very well known to be in favor of. The senator demanded to know who he was and where he was from, according to Chanow. The credit union person said `Joe Blow’ from New Jersey, after which D’Amato promptly kicked him out of his office. In another Caucus snafu, the hotel once lost then-House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach’s car keys for about half-an-hour. More recently, then-NCUA Board recess appointee Geoff Bacino was having difficulty getting a hearing in the Senate Banking Committee. After then-committee Chairman Phil Gramm spoke at Caucus, Chanow said, Bacino caught up with him and made his case to Gramm as he walked to his car. As the chairman was getting in his car, Bacino asked if he could help him out to which Gramm replied, “I’ll pray for you.” “At least you got that,” Chanow comforted Bacino. Chanow was also able to look back with a chuckle to a few years ago when remarks from Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) were misconstrued and made Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s stocks plummet. No, you cannot control speeches from members of Congress. They can say they plan to speak on one subject and end up on an entirely different one, like last year when Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) made a Kerry campaign speech. However, Chanow helps decide who speaks. One particularly strong line-up was then-NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours, Gramm and Leach were all scheduled to speak and, being a slow news day, C-SPAN covered the entire program for the day. Chanow said that was the best Caucus for him. Other than D’Amours, the lobbyist said, NAFCU has had difficulty picking up controversial speakers. “Every year we try to get them and every year they say `no,’” Chanow explained. But this year, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who has introduced legislation to curb NCUA’s authority in credit union-to-mutual savings bank conversions, has agreed to address the credit union crowd of 400-plus. Chanow said he gives the congressman a lot of credit for agreeing to the engagement. [email protected]

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