Since the long road of the presidential campaign began more thana year ago, the credit union industry has been trying to get theattention of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to make them aware ofthe industry's crucial role in supporting and growing the middleclass – a top campaign issue.

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In less than a month, the nation will have a newpresident-elect.

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The big question is whether efforts by CUNA and NAFCU will payoff in getting the new president to remember the industry'spriority issues of reducing regulatory burdens and keeping the taxexemption so that credit unions can continue their primary missionof people helping people, in the form of providing members withlower rates, lower fees and better service.

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In October 2015, CUNA triggered its member activation program tolaunch a “Strong Credit Unions. Strong Middle Class” campaign thatmarshalled credit union members to reach out to the presidentialprimary candidates.

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Richard Gose, CUNA's chief political officer, said the purposeof the CUNA campaign was to make sure the Democratic and Republicancandidates, as they were developing their domestic economicpolicies, heard about credit unions' critical role in supportingand growing the middle class that fuels much of the nation'seconomic activity.

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The campaign also gave members the option of signing a petitionthat was sent to the presidential candidate of their choice. Thepetitions, signed by more than 30,000 members, reminded thecandidates of the important benefits credit unions delivered tomillions of middle class consumers, such as $8.4 billion in directfinancial benefits, lower cost choice for financial products andservices, and avoiding risky behaviors that have become notoriouswith big banks.

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That message apparently got through to at least one Republicanprimary presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina, in December when shespoke at a credit union event organized by the Carolinas CreditUnion League as part of a collaboration between the league andCUNA's campaign. Fiorina addressed the Lowcountry Chapter of CreditUnions at the $1.5 billion South Carolina Federal Credit Union inNorth Charleston.

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Gose said the idea of the national middle class campaignoriginated from CUNA's annual survey on the state of the economyand the middle class, which revealed that 54% of the survey'srespondents said credit unions are the best place for middle classconsumers to deposit their money.

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About 1,250 to 1,400 credit union members and nonmembers weresurveyed via landline phone, the internet and smartphones.Conducted by a political pollster, the survey's margin of error wasplus or minus 4%, according to Gose.

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“On average, about 40% of our registered voters are members ofcredit unions,” Gose said. “Roughly, 23% of registered votersconsider credit unions their primary financial institution and it'sbeen that way fairly consistently for about the last 15 years.”

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Over the summer, NAFCU President/CEO Dan Berger announced thatthe national trade organization met with both presidentialcampaigns seeking the candidates' support for credit unions andtheir members.

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What's more, Berger wrote letters to Hillary Clinton and DonaldTrump in August thanking them for their positions to addressregulatory burdens.

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Berger expressed his appreciation to Clinton for supporting cutsin regulatory red tape for credit unions, which was highlighted inthe campaign's platform for small business and a factsheet forsupporting credit unions.

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“Reducing regulatory burden on credit unions is a top priorityof NAFCU,” Berger wrote to Clinton. “On behalf of our nation's 104million credit union members, we stand ready to work with you inthis regard.”

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He also thanked Trump for his call to help reduce the nation'sregulatory burden. In July during his economic speech in Detroit,the Republican candidate pledged to place a temporary moratorium onnew financial regulations. Trump also has repeatedly said that hewould repeal and replace the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, according tonational media reports.

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“Your official support of regulatory relief for credit unionswould be welcomed by the credit union community and the nation's104 million credit union members,” Berger wrote to Trump.

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Berger said NAFCU remains focused on ensuring that lawmakers andthe next president understand the value credit unions bring totheir members and the nation's economy.

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Last month, CUNA launched the next phase of the Strong CreditUnions, Strong Middle Class campaign as the 2016 election seasonentered the presidential and vice presidential debate season.

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The national trade group has been working with state leaguepartners and member credit unions to create an online presence toattract attention from the presidential debate organizers who wereusing Facebook and presidentialopenquestions.com to identify andcompile voter questions to ask the candidates for the Town Hallpresidential debate on Oct. 9.

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On CUNA's campaign website, middleclass2016.com, leagues, creditunions and their members were encouraged to vote for a creditunion-related question for it to be asked by one of the moderators.As of the afternoon of Oct. 5, the credit union-related questionreceived more than 4,000 votes. Some of the questions that receivedthe most votes were considered by the moderators.

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The credit union-related question was, “Is there an alternativeto the big banks on Wall Street? What will you do to grow thecommunity banks and credit unions on Main Street?”

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“You can see where Wall Street versus Main Street is a verypopular topic that feeds into the anger and the angst with thegeneral public, so I'm surprised we haven't heard more of thatissue on the campaign trail,” Dave Adams, president/CEO of theMichigan Credit Union League, said. “Of course it seems that thecandidates are doing more to bash each other than they are intalking about any issues.”

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Adams said the CUNA middle class campaign is an extension ofwhat credit unions should be doing by telling their stories intheir local communities and with their state lawmakers and theirfederal lawmakers.

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“I think, in reality, in an election like this, the candidatesand their camps are focused on the messages and the things theyneed to do to get elected,” he said. “Once one of them prevails, itis a matter for CUNA to work with the new administration to letthem know how our policies align with theirs.”

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Patrick LaPine, president/CEO of the League of SoutheasternCredit Unions, said CUNA's middle class campaign is important sothat the industry is not forgotten during the electioncampaign.

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“I think CUNA is doing a nice job of raising the awareness ofcredit unions with the candidates,” LaPine said. “Both HillaryClinton and Donald Trump have spoken about unnecessary regulationsand Clinton has mentioned credit unions by name. I think anythingwe can do to let them know that we have more than 100 millionmembers and let them know we are watching and have the ability toactivate those members, which obviously in a very close electionyear, could be important in certain states.”

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