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Credit unions on Capitol Hill

By David McMillin ·
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

As the 2012 election approaches, the nation's credit unions have a close eye on how the potential outcome will impact their costs and their members. I caught up with some of the leaders at the Credit Union National Association this week for a full understanding of what's at stake in the upcoming election.

"We're trying to reduce regulatory burden for credit unions and ultimately bring the cost of compliance down for credit union members," says Ryan Donovan, says CUNA's senior vice president of legislative affairs. "The only money that credit unions have is their members' money. If they're forced to use that money to comply with changing regulations and adjust their processes, it's a detriment to the individual member."

Credit union supporters are primarily focused on the ability to increase their lending powers for small businesses. The potential to expand this lending has been hotly contested by the nation's community banks.

"Business lending is our top priority between now and the end of the year," says Mary Dunn, CUNA's senior vice president of regulatory advocacy.

However, credit unions and banks are on the same side on many issues, including eliminating the requirement for physical signs that disclose potential ATM fees.

Educating members about the election

"With less than 40 days before the election, we're focused on making sure that credit unions and their members know where these candidates stand," says Trey Hawkins, CUNA's vice president of political affairs.

From helping local credit unions include information in member newsletters to direct mail campaigns, Hawkins says that CUNA is supporting plenty of grassroots efforts to motivate members to make the trip to the polls. With an estimated 95 million members, it's clear that voting members can have a big impact on the election.

A bipartisan approach to advertising

While you may hear political candidates talk about "reaching across the aisle," credit union advocates seem truly dedicated to supporting candidates from both political parties.

"We look at individual races in an effort to determine which candidate is more supportive of credit unions, regardless of whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans," Hawkins says.

"All of our activity tends to be positive in nature," Hawkins says. "We don't work to fund negative advertising. Instead, we try to lay out the positive benefits of key candidates and what those benefits mean for credit union members."

The road ahead for credit unions

"Regardless of which party captures the presidential election, there will be changes in personnel," Dunn says.

Even if President Barack Obama is re-elected, Dunn says that many expect Timothy Geithner to leave his current position as Secretary of the Treasury. While Dunn says Geithner has been a friend to credit unions, she says credit union advocates should be prepared to work with someone who might not be as supportive of the nation's not-for-profit institutions.

Are you a credit union member? Do you know which candidates support your membership?

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September 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

No. My local credit union would be useful for a car loan, particularly a used car loan, which I do not need and hopefully never will need. I found better deposit rates on a rewards checking account elsewhere.

Remember that both candidates are recipients of campaign contributions from both of the corporate candidates (Obama/Romney). How far do you think they can go to help credit unions (at the expense of banks)?