ARLINGTON, Va.-NAFCU’s new Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations Dan Berger is using his talents to raise funds for a worthy cause. Demonstrating the credit union “people helping people” philosophy, Berger held an art show Jan. 30 at The Palette Restaurant in D.C. to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington, D.C. The art will be sold in March through an online auction after being on display at The Palette for the next month. All proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Clubs. “I thought it went great. It was embarrassing and humbling at the same time,” Berger commented. His contemporary paintings are full of bold color choices and lines, yet his skill was punctuated by a series of women in the Sumi style-a minimalist Japanese technique. He has only been painting a couple of years with no formal training, crediting his two-year-old daughter, Shelby, as his inspiration. Where he grew up in Gainesville, Fla., Berger had been a member of the local Boys and Girls Club and participated in various sports. “I love all sports except maybe ice skating,” he said, emphasizing his self-described hyper-competitiveness. Now, just having turned “the big 4-0,” he still plays flag football when his busy schedule allows. Fortunately for Berger, his wife of 15 years, Aimee, understands a lobbyist’s schedule. When asked how he balances work and life, he responded, “My understanding wife to start with. I was a lobbyist from my first job out of college. My wife was a lobbyist.” He added that it also helps that she enjoys entertaining. Berger has more than 15 years experience in government relations and political campaigns. He has done everything from lobby for the insurance industry to running Congresswoman Katherine Harris’ (R-Fla.) first successful congressional campaign then serving as her chief of staff. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Florida State University. But what he might be most infamous for among credit unions was, immediately prior to joining NAFCU, lobbying for America’s Community Bankers. “I think it’s going to be interesting. I was surprised by how warm everyone’s been,” Berger said. Colleagues from the Hill and the banking industry were sure to congratulate him on this latest step in his career, he said. Berger pointed out that some of the top issues for banks and credit unions making their way through both houses of Congress are the same: regulatory relief, Government-Sponsored Enterprise reform, flood insurance, and, until very recently, deposit insurance reform and bankruptcy reform. He also said that NAFCU and ACB are similar because both are very much member-driven. On the other hand, banks and credit unions have been at loggerheads on the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 2317), the so-called McHenry bill (H.R. 3206), and, of course, the tax-exemption. Berger expressed hope that the banks and credit unions could reach common ground, or at least not do battle, on a number of fronts. Regarding risk-based capital reform found in CURIA, he said, “I hope so. Look at the relations in the past..We may have done battle on some issues. I hope there is some common ground and we can move forward.” The McHenry piece of legislation, which has been linked to ACB, attempts to strip NCUA of some of its authority over credit union conversions to mutual savings banks. Berger said he didn’t think his past efforts would harm his relationship with NCUA, as he will also be overseeing NAFCU’s regulatory affairs department as well. “I hope not. We had two of the new board members here. Both were very friendly and cordial,” he commented, noting that their senior staff also traveled with them. “So far, it’s stayed on the field,” Berger said, using a sports metaphor. Further, he explained, “We’ve been in contact with McHenry and his staff.We’re in discussions on making more disclosures, more transparency.” NAFCU Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler interjected that the trade group had shared its white paper on the matter with McHenry’s staff and disclosure is definitely an issue they are interested in. Berger emphasized that he, personally, is a `no-tax’ Republican, which would include credit unions as well. “I’ve been a credit union member since junior high, so I wouldn’t want my credit union taxed,” he remarked. Berger has his car loan financed through Campus USA Credit Union in Fla. He is also a member of Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union. While Berger admitted that he had lobbied on the tax issue, he asserted that was his job. “I advocate and give 110% to what I’m advocating,” he stated. That being said, Berger wants to bring to NAFCU “Hopefully some management and oversight. Hopefully Republican credentials. A renewed enthusiasm. I’m hyper-competitive,” the lobbyist outlined. He declined to name names when it came to his closest ties, but said, “I’ve worked closely with all members of the Financial Services and Ways & Means committees, people within the administration.” Berger also listed being a strategist and being able to map things out among his assets. “I hope to add to our success going forward.” Primarily, Berger will begin his career at NAFCU, building upon the success they’ve already had, but added there is a lot of work for a credit union lobbyist to do on Capitol Hill. “In terms of NAFCU, NAFCU has a terrific reputation on the Hill,” he said. Berger added, “Credit unions have terrific arguments.” Despite their political prowess, some have suggested that credit unions are as close to losing their tax-exempt status as they have ever been. “I didn’t hear that out of [Ways and Mean Committee Chairman] Bill Thomas’ mouth,” Berger said, referring to the Nov. 3 committee hearing on the credit union tax-exemption. He referred to Thomas’ staff as “some of the smartest people on the Hill.” Based on visits to Capitol Hill in his brief time with NAFCU, Berger commented, “It would be wise for the banking work on lowering their own tax burden.” He said that the banking trades seem to be taking the hint that they might be more effectual in the mutual savings bank conversion issue. However, he noted that the tax battle between the banks and credit unions will never go away because it is so entrenched in each of their philosophies. Another focus of the hearing was credit union documentation of service to those of modest means. Berger said he had not heard anything as of yet on any legislation regarding the concerns voiced by a number of lawmakers Nov. 3. -

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