WASHINGTON – While interest group left and right, red and blue, will pursue a partisan majority in Congress in tomorrow’s elections, the one thing that drives CUNA and its unprecedented financial participation in 60 of 70 open congressional seats is the aim for a solid credit union majority in the next Congress.

The pursuit of a credit union-supportive Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, or half and half, has been a goal of CUNA’s ever since the landmark 1998 bill, HR 1151, the CU Membership Access Act, with the leading credit union lobby group emerging since then as one of the most prolific contributors to congressional campaigns among trade associations. And over the last few election cycles increasing resources have shifted from defending proven congressional allies to promoting new faces running in open races in the House and Senate.

This year CUNA and its state affiliates are participating, either with PAC contributions or with special independent expenditures or direct mailing in 10 of 11 open races in the Senate and 50 of 59 open House seats, with well more than $600,000 spent to back these races, including some $200,000 spent by the California CU League’s “Super PAC”.

“Since incumbents are generally reelected over 90% of the time, we see open seats as rare opportunities to identify and elect a credit union friend,” said Trey Hawkins, who heads CUNA’s PAC, known as CU Legislative Action Council, which will direct as much as $5 million to campaigns in this year’s elections. “We go into each one with an eye toward ascertaining which candidate would be best for credit unions, be it a personal or business relationship with a credit union, experience with or support of credit unions in a state legislative office, or some other knowledge of and affinity for credit unions.”

In most cases, that means a candidate has exhibited some knowledge or record of credit union issues, such as a vote in the state legislature, and support on key issues, like the credit union tax exemption, field of membership powers, or member business lending. “We of course also weigh a candidate’s political viability since we want to be sure we are not wasting our members’ investment in CULAC on candidates who have no shot at winning,” Hawkins told the Credit Union Journal over the weekend.

Some of the open seat candidates supported by CUNA this election are:

 

Republican California State Sen. Tony Strickland, who has supported credit unions in the state legislature;

Retired National Guard General Bill Enyar, who is running as a Democrat House candidate in Illinois;

Oregon State Sen. Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, a House candidate who has spoken in favor of raising the member business loan cap;

Former Maine Governor Angus King, an independent who supported credit unions during two terms in the state house;

Pete Aguilar, a former Arrowhead Central CU executive and mayor of Redwoods, Calif., who lost a primary in California, despite more than $200,000 of supper from the California CU league’s “Super PAC.”

 

 

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