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Industry Veteran: How To Make a Political Impact
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (6/24/13)--Credit unions need be politically engaged to beat the banks in the political arena, an industry veteran told more than 300 Minnesota credit union professionals and volunteers at the Minnesota Credit Union Network's Annual Meeting and Convention last month.

The importance of being active in the political process and how to make an impact during elections were stressed by Dr. Paul Withey, vice president of strategic development and public relations at Houston-based Texas Bay Area CU, and Mara Humphrey, MnCUN vice president-governmental affairs.

"People don't often like to talk about it, but the world of politics is extremely competitive, especially when industries have to go head-to-head due to competing interests," Withey said. "The current environment in the credit union industry is such that we need to be able to beat the bankers in the political arena. Strong advocacy and grassroots involvement is the way to do that."

Withey has 16 years' experience with the credit union industry, including leadership posts on the Texas Credit Union League Board of Directors, the TCUL Legislative Affairs Committee, and as a Political Action Committee trustee.

Click to view larger imagePolitical engagement was the heart of the message to nearly 300 credit union professionals and volunteers attending the Minnesota Credit Union Network's Annual Meeting and Convention last month. (Photos provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Network)
He outlined three areas where credit unions can have the most impact in their political advocacy efforts:

  • Support political action committees, such as MnCUN's state Credit Union Volunteer Committee and the federal Credit Union Legislative Action Committee.
  • Participate in the Credit Union National Association's Project ZIP Code, which converts a credit union's database into a political tool by counting total membership numbers and calculating how many live in each state legislative and congressional district.
  • Engage in partisan communications to get involved in the election process and create powerful relationships with political allies. Direct mail postcards promote a candidate only to primary voters and registered political party members, and create positive word-of-mouth for credit unions, he said. Postcards do not tell who to vote for, but rather show that a particular candidate supports credit unions.
"Credit unions [in Texas] were initially nervous about endorsing a candidate," he said, but concerns were alleviated as soon as credit unions became involved in the experience. They understood the significance of taking that political step, he said.

Humphrey told the group about the nationwide Don't Tax My Credit Union grassroots advocacy campaign driven by the Credit Union National Association and the state leagues and associations, including MnCUN. She noted that the credit union corporate income tax exemption is under threat in Congress' tax reform.

"This is an all-out grassroots advocacy effort, and we need credit unions to involve their members in this campaign," Humphrey said.  "It is critical that Congress hear from millions of credit union members that they want the credit union tax status preserved."
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