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CUs blanket halls of Congress with advocacy strength
WASHINGTON (2/28/14)--With a record 4,400-plus attendees at this year's Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference, the action during Capitol Hill advocacy visits was intense. Credit union league representatives led credit union reps to meet with Republicans and Democrats alike, long-term lawmakers and those new to Washington, legislators who "get" credit unions and those who still have a lot to learn.  In each meeting, the credit union folks defended the credit union tax status and advocated for key initiatives.
Click for slide show CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney thanks credit union representatives in the halls of the House and Senate office buildings for their contributions to the days of advocacy surrounding CUNA's Governmental Affairs conference. Here, Cheney (right) shakes the hands of Virginia credit union representatives after a Virginia Credit Union League luncheon with legislators on Capitol Hill. (CUNA Photo)
Credit union representatives were everywhere on Wednesday and Thursday, hitting on all the major points: Taxation, member business lending, housing finance reform, data security and credit union charter enhancements.

CUNA's annual event remains a valuable touch point for meeting face to face with lawmakers, California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues President/CEO Diana Dykstra said. She led more than 200 representatives from those states on their hikes, and lauded member credit unions' efforts in supporting the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign which was kicked off last year by CUNA and state credit union leagues.

Bobby Michael, CEO of Statesboro, Ga.'s Core CU, said he was most focused on just getting the credit union message out to legislators. "If you repeat it enough times it sinks in," he said.

Alabama and Florida credit unions made 36 lawmaker visits over about eight hours Wednesday, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions reported. Data security and tax reform were the most widely discussed issues. Most lawmakers were familiar with credit union concerns regarding data security, though some were surprised that merchants were not accountable financially or that credit unions can't let their members know the name of the business that has been breached, LSCU said.

Data security was a top topic when a crew of Vermont credit union leaders met with Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.). Association of Vermont Credit Unions President/CEO Joseph Bergeron said credit unions in his state had just received a second round of threatening letters from the same patent trolls that struck two years ago, and Bergeron thanked Leahy for his work to address the patent troll issue.

Northwest Credit Union Association Senior Vice President for Advocacy Jennifer Wagner said the time credit unions have with their elected leaders can be brief, so the message points "have to be prepared, concise and specific to the person we're meeting with."

More than 100 credit union advocates from North and South Carolina took the credit union message to their legislators on Wednesday, and the Carolinas Credit Union League said those advocates can return home confident in the results of their unified voice and fully aware of the effectiveness in a clear message.

Some credit union groups also took the time to address issues unique to their state. South Dakota credit union advocates opened their discussions by addressing the attacks banks are making against them. The credit union representatives stressed the value of the credit union model in the marketplace and the importance of preserving the credit union tax status, and many shared individual stories about how the tax status still serves the purpose in their communities and how the credit union tax status is good public policy.

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