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WASHINGTON-With the advent of payroll deductions, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA (CULAC) appears to be on target to far exceed money in and out of the political action committee over the last election cycle (2003-2004). CULAC reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that it made $135,032.61 in contributions during the month of October with a year-to-date total of nearly $1.5 million. In October of 2003, the last non-election year, CULAC had contributed $68,429.97; the year-to-date total was nearly $1.1 million, according to FEC filings. The largest contributions went to Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), $10,000; Senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.), $5,500; Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) Defend America PAC, $5,000; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), $5,000; Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), $5,000; and the House Conservatives Fund ($5,000), led by Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) and John Campbell (R-Calif.), a state senator who faces a Dec. 6 run-off for the special election to former Congressman Christopher Cox’ (R-Calif.) seat. Cox is now serving as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Overall, CULAC contributions are leaning slightly right with 58% going to Republicans and 42% to Democrats, according to www.opensecrets.org. CULAC brought in $92,597.60 in October for $1.3 million in receipts for the year. While trying to be cautious about being “too prospective,” CUNA Vice President of Political Action Richard Gose pointed out that, CULAC is now a little more than 13% over where it was at the same time in 2003. “We feel good about that,” he stated. Additionally, CUNA Political Director Trey Hawkins pointed out that the number of contributions has increased a little less than 4,000, from just over 14,000 to a little more than 18,000 between 2003 and 2005. Additionally, he noted that the average amount of the contributions was $19.96, demonstrating credit unions’ true grassroots nature. CUNA and state league employees responded to concentrated marketing for the payroll deduction program, which has always been available to CULAC from the leagues and CUNA, according to Hawkins, with a 40% increase in contributions. People like the “ease of the program,” he explained. After an FEC ruling earlier this year, credit unions can now collect from their members in this fashion on behalf of CULAC. Citing the increase in just CUNA and league payroll deduction participants, Gose sees great potential of marketing the idea directly to credit union members. Another program that is less quantifiable but has really kicked contributions into high gear for CULAC is the Matching Gift program, where credit unions can make matching contributions to the 501(c)(3) charities of the contributor’s choice, Gose said. Combining the two programs, Hawkins suggested, could be a powerful tool in obtaining contributions. The recent legislative and taxation battles credit unions are facing could be a blessing in disguise from the PAC’s point of view because they have heightened the awareness for the need to get involved. “The legislative battles show credit union members and professionals that there is always a political element that affects their day-to-day life,” Gose stated. Political and grassroots efforts are a “vital” part of being a player in Washington circles. -

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