WASHINGTON-Despite the increasingly negative tone of politics and campaigns, credit unions have striven to stay positive, but that doesn't mean they're afraid of getting their hands a little dirty.
"For us, it's not about conservatives or liberals or which party. For us, the ideal outcome is getting more credit union advocates in office, and it really is bipartisan," said Katie Marisic, NAFCU's director of political affairs. "Bank Transfer Day is seen as liberal, but on the other hand, we see conservative support on interchange issues. [NAFCU's political donations] are pretty close to 50/50 on who gets our support."
The same is true at CUNA. "People ask us if that's a strategic decision, and in some ways, yes it is, since we're bipartisan. But it's also a factor of who supports credit unions. We have supporters on both sides of the aisle, so our support goes to both sides of the aisle."
By and large, NAFCU and CUNA have had a lot of success supporting candidates who eventually do win their elections. But what happens when the other guy wins? Can those fences be mended?
"We are always cautious about who we give our money to," Marisic said. "And it doesn't mean that the other candidate is against credit unions."
"We have had situations where we have been on the other side of the race where the person who won has come back to us and said, 'I didn't have your support this time. What do I need to do to get your support next time?' And that's the key, we don't oppose candidates, we support candidates. That makes the difference," said Richard Gose, CUNA SVP-political affairs.
"The tone, in my 35 years in Washington, has gotten markedly worse. They're going beyond attacking policies to going after families. It drives good people away from politics," said CUNA EVP and Chief of Staff John Magill. "But politicians are delighted to see us because they know we're not doing that. We talk policy, policy, policy.
Unless, of course, credit unions are driven to do otherwise. "If we see a legislator is trying to do us in, we will react accordingly," Magill said. "We will oppose them. We would rather support our friends than oppose an unfriendly candidate, but we will, and we have."