LYNCHBURG, Va. — More than a year after Navy Federal Credit Union quit CUNA and the Virginia Credit Union League in a dispute over payday lending, leaders of both trade groups expressed hope this week that new policies might bring the nation’s largest CU back into the fold.

“We would certainly welcome them back and we remain in contact with their management as we work toward that goal,” explained Rick Pillow, president/CEO of the Virginia League which since the fall of 2007 has led a quiet–but so far unsuccessful–campaign to get Navy Federal to rejoin.

The latest policy initiative, noted league officials, has been the Nov. 1 hiring of a former well-known Richmond lawmaker and lobbyist, Witt Clement, to represent the trade group replacing a 2007 firm which had ties to the payday industry and whose lobbying triggered Navy Federal’s departure from CUNA and the league. Navy Federal management complained of a conflict of interest in the firm representing CUs and the Community Financial Services Association.

A spokeswoman for Navy Federal said “it was aware of the hiring of the Richmond law firm but the situation has not changed” regarding re-affiliation. In steering clear of any conflict, Pillow said the league leadership is heartened by hiring of Clement, a partner in Hunton & Williams, and “a respected former lawmaker who has no payday clients.” Clement is former secretary of transportation in the administration of Gov. Mark Warner and a 14-year member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Separately, the league said its first major safety and soundness radio and billboard ad campaign starting in October resulting from the economic crisis is showing initial gains in consumer awareness based on a more than doubling of hits for the “Find a Credit Union” search service.