Getting Politicians on Our Side

Happy New Year. Or should I say, Happy Election Year, because, like it or not, this is an important election year.


Happy New Year. Or should I say, Happy Election Year, because, like it or not, this is an important election year. The Presidency is up for grabs, and so, too, at least, the House of Representatives. If we are silent now, when the candidates are running, you can bet they will be pretty silent in return when we ask for their support on important legislative votes. We have to go to work now, and stay at it all the way through November so that when the persons who are elected assume office they will know who we are and what we need, and will respond in kind.

Credit Union Point Persons
There are not many candidates running for president, and what few there are, are going to thin out this winter in the first flush of primaries. We should find someone who can go all out on each candidate's campaign. Not only would this person pour a lot of energy into the campaign but also tell the candidate that he or she can be the source of information and wisdom about credit unions and credit union members, being sure, of course, that the candidate understands that the number of credit union members in this country runs to 70 million.

Eventually, one of the candidates is going to be elected president. If all works out well, our 'point person' will still have the ear of the president on credit union matters when the new administration runs the country and the gratitude of the president for help in his campaign. But we have to get these 'point persons' into place right away. Of almost equal importance is to work on candidates for the House of Representatives. We should have some of our people working on most candidates' campaigns. Some candidates are, of course, hopeless, but the majority are open to effective arguments in favor of credit union issues. As in the presidential campaign, we should work both sides of the aisle; we need not favor either Democrats or Republicans but only persons who will honestly consider and hopefully support our credit union appeals.

Again, we cannot wait for September to do this. We should start now and stick with it so our message can sink in. 'Hit them early and often' should be our guide slogan here.

The Money Game
Candidates love volunteer support, but they love money even more. Our point persons should work all their credit union contacts and ask for financial support for the candidate they are supporting. PACs really are not going to get the job done any more. Candidates need lots of individuals who can sit down and write them a check.

The Credit Union Appeal
So here is what a point person might attempt to do: Use the credit union's newsletter or Website to solicit funds from members for candidates. The appeal to the members might go something like this: 'Members, we are not recommending which candidate to support -- we do not think that is appropriate -- only that you support one in a significant way. Demonstrate to the candidate of your choice that credit union clout makes a difference. Do so by writing a check to his or her campaign and add something like the following: 'I am a credit union member for good government. I want to assure the freedom of choice of Americans to join a credit union and in this cause I am sending you this check in support of your campaign. It's for credit unions that I am supporting you.'"

I don't know how many members will respond to such an appeal, but even a few would likely have an impact. Candidates don't forget letters like that. Such letters should come in a steady stream, so the message is etched in their brains.

It's Time to Act
I hope that the importance of this work is appreciated across credit union land. In the last Congress, the banks finally got what they had been working decades for. But the landscape for credit unions is basically unchanged since the 1930s and we now have more fetters than other financial industry institutions. In the next Congress and under the next presidential administration will be written the rules for credit unions for a long time to come.

By working now for candidates we can be assured later of friends in high places.




April 24, 2000



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