ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NCUA issued a second opinion letter concerning federal credit unions’ political activities after a request for “further elaboration” from CUNA.
In a letter late last year (06-0928), NCUA advised a federal credit union on the permissible political activities of federal credit unions, such as hosting events for congressional candidates.
Legal Opinion Letter 07-0222 states that while the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 prohibits federal credit unions from making contributions, “There are several exceptions to the [Federal Election Commission's] prohibitions and definitions of the terms ‘contribution’ and ‘expenditure,’ many of which may apply to communications or solicitations restricted to an FCU’s members.”
For example, NCUA wrote, “Credit unions may engage in the excepted activities to the extent allowed by FEC regulations. For example, there are fewer restrictions on political activity involving internal political communications by a credit union to its members and to its executive and administrative personnel. To provide further guidance, we note credit union communications under those circumstances may expressly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate and may solicit funds for particular candidates.” (Citations omitted)
At appearances for federal candidates “may include requests made by credit union personnel and the candidate for contributions. The candidate or his or her representative may collect contributions before, during, or after such events.”
Additionally, NCUA noted that a 1990 FEC opinion allows a federal credit union to use its own funds to set up a federal political action committee. Another FEC opinion from 2004 allows federal credit unions to make donations to a charity to promote member contributions for the Credit Union Legislative Action Council of CUNA. Yet another, allows CUNA members to act as solicitors and collectors of voluntary contributions.
Credit unions may also permit their employees and members free use of the facilities for voluntary political activities with a safe harbor of one hour per week or four hours a month.