The Credit Union Journal's headline and article in its August 14th edition, "CUNA Efforts in Primary Races Experience Major Setback," was off the mark in several respects.
There is no question that it would have been a far better result for the credit unions of Connecticut and Colorado if Sen. Lieberman and Jeff Crank had won their primaries, but outcomes are not the only measurement of success. The fact that CUNA showed its commitment to candidates that support credit unions is nothing but a plus for our movement and for those that both observed and participated in these elections. It is a necessary part of building our political strength in order to further the growth of credit unions and fend off the continued, tiresome assault by a minority of fanatical anti-credit union banker lobbyists.
All of us in the credit union movement who give to our campaign funds do so with an expectation that the money will be used-not hoarded-to support candidates who support credit unions. In primary races where a few hundred or thousand votes can swing an election, CUNA's independent expenditures were noticed and helped reinforce the credit union message both to our friends and to those not so closely aligned with our interests.
In politics, there is an old adage that you never make permanent enemies. Most elected officials I have worked with respect organizations that strongly support their friends, and once elected, those officials are usually open to starting a dialogue with every group-even those that might have been initially opposed to them-particularly when the opposition was principled and based on good, sound reasons. In other words, the fact that CUNA strongly weighed in for our friends will not be lost on the winners and we will have a chance to work with those officials to educate and help them understand the issues that affect credit unions. Far from closing doors, CUNA's support will help open doors to the eventual winners of these races.
While there are too few competitive races in the country for the national good, in those races that are competitive, such as Sen. Lieberman's race in Connecticut or Jeff Crank's race in Colorado, it is almost never possible to clearly predict a winner. If CUNA ONLY invested in WINNING candidates, the organization would not be doing its job, which is to help advance the long-term interests of credit unions by taking some chances and risking some funds where those monies can make a difference.
Because CUNA engaged in an independent expenditure on behalf of Jeff Crank in Colorado's 5th District, the Credit Union Association of Colorado (CUAC) did not have a role or knowledge of CUNA's efforts until those efforts unfolded in that race. CUAC, however, had made its own independent endorsement of Jeff Crank, based on his multi-decade support for credit unions that runs deep in his family. Until late into the primary evening, Jeff was leading the race. It was only when the absentee ballots were counted that the election results reversed, giving a narrow win to Sen. Doug Lamborn.
CUNA's bold investment in our friends was not money squandered; it was money well spent. If we do more, not less, of these efforts in the future, it will benefit our entire movement, whether we win them all or a lose a few.
John Dill, President/CEO
Credit Union Association of Colorado
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