Virginia Credit Union League President/CEO Rick Pillow said both major political parties bring a different type of support to credit unions, but at the end of the day, it’s a candidate’s individual record that earns him or her an endorsement or PAC contribution.
“Sometimes you’re better off on the regulatory side with Republicans, because they tend to want less government,” Pillow said. “But on the other hand, Democrats tend to be better with proactive issues. For example, there are more Democratic sponsors for member business lending.”
The Virginia league endorsed Democrat and former governor Tim Kaine in his bid for the U.S. Senate after endorsing his opponent in 2006, Republican George Allen, who also served as the state’s governor and completed one term as a U.S. senator.
Pillow said the league organized a task force to select a candidate in the 2012 race, and the group met with both men, asking questions about current credit union issues. Though both candidates are friendly to credit unions, Pillow said Kaine “hit the ball out of the park” with his responses.
Pillow said because Americans are so split between the two parties, the league has been receiving a little more feedback than usual from members who disapprove of supporting a candidate on the basis of political party.
But, he said, the league encourages credit union leaders to become involved with any candidate’s campaign regardless of party, to ensure both sides understand industry issues.
NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker called the business of supporting a member of Congress a “balance test” because an elected official may support one piece of credit union legislation, but not another. Although NAFCU’s PAC has contributed more to Republicans than Democrats so far this year, the blue team came out ahead in NAFCU contributions in 2008.
“The big exception is interchange – you won’t find anybody who got money from us that voted against us on interchange,” Becker said. “They say time heals all wounds, but that wound remains open.”
Dodd-Frank was a broader bill and although NAFCU immediately saw the potential for problems with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “most people at first didn’t appreciate the consequences” of Dodd-Frank, Becker said.
The Massachusetts Credit Union League’s July 26 endorsement of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat and Harvard University professor who championed the CFPB, stirred up some controversy within the industry.
“I was jaw-dropped stunned to see that a CUNA league in Massachusetts actually endorsed the creator of the CFPB. What are they thinking?” asked David Proffitt, president/CEO of the $180 million Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union. “To endorse the creator of the massive regulatory bureau is contradictory to the credit union mission of creating and sustaining a financial cooperative with our members’ money.”
The Massachusetts league's senior vice president of public relations and marketing, Robert Kimmett, said the organization has received some criticism from members for the endorsement, but said by and large, it was a positive move. League endorsements are non-partisan, he said.
“The only interest we take when approaching governmental and political matters is whether or not the individual running for office is pro-credit union,” he said.
The league hasn’t heard an earful from members who say the CFPB is out to make life hard for credit unions, Kimmett said.
Warren is a member of Harvard’s credit union and her pro-credit union stance goes a long way, he added.