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CUNA stands by controversial Senate candidate

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As Mississippians head to the polls, Google, Facebook and AT&T have called on beleaguered Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith to return campaign contributions following a series of controversial remarks.

One notable absence from that list? A major financial services trade group.

The Credit Union National Association in April donated $5,000 to Hyde-Smith’s bid to finish the term of the Senate seat she was appointed to earlier this year, according to OpenSecrets.org, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics. CUNA’s political action committee, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council, also spent $200,000 in independent expenditures during October for television ads supporting Hyde-Smith in advance of the Nov. 6 special election.

Neither the Mississippi Credit Union Association nor the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions donated to any Mississippi Senate candidates for the 2018 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets data.

Google, Walmart, Major League Baseball and others have asked for donations to be returned after controversial comments by Hyde-Smith surfaced. One video posted to social media showed Hyde-Smith stating earlier this month that if a local rancher, who was standing next to her, “invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Critics have called the comment insensitive given Mississippi’s history of lynchings.

“Our initial support prior to the Nov. 6 general election was to maximize the opportunity to have two credit union-friendly candidates make the runoff. That support was made prior to these recent revelations and comments, which CUNA does not condone, and we have made no contributions or expenditures since,” Trey Hawkins, CUNA’s vice president of political affairs, said in a written statement.

CUNA contributed more than $7 million to candidates across the political spectrum in advance of midterm elections, including independent expenditures to benefit candidates like Hyde-Smith and others in competitive races, many of them moderate “Red State Democrats.”

Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate earlier this year after Sen. Thad Cochran, a fellow Republican, stepped down for health reasons. A special election to fill the seat until its term expires in 2021 was held earlier in November. But no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, leading to the Nov. 27 runoff between the top two finishers, Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy.

Shortly before the Nov. 6 midterm election, the Northwest Credit Union Association called on a Washington State senator to return its donations following a series of controversial remarks.

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