WASHINGTON (3/31/08)--The operating principal behind cooperative financial institutions is that people lend to each other for their mutual benefit. To be successful there needs to be members from many financial stratums, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) said in a recently published letter to the American Banker editor. Bankers “get that” and that is what stands behind their constant push to have credit unions serve only “people of modest means,” the CUNA letter said. “(S)ince credit unions have no access to the capital markets, the only way to get the process going and to capitalize the institution is to have some members with money,” according to CUNA General Counsel Eric Robert. The CUNA letter was submitted to express credit unions’ “grave concern” regarding comments attributed by the newspaper to the head lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. Floyd Stoner was said to have hinted that the bankers association would challenge the application for a new credit union by the real estate agents' association. CUNA’s letter responded that credit unions "stand ready to defend the rights of consumers to pool their resources, in a cooperative structure, to form a credit union." And Richard warned readers to avoid attempts at “revisionist history.” “Modest means has never meant only low- to moderate-income people. It means people who are wage-earners, as indicated by the legislative history of the 1934 Federal Credit Union Act. “Current law does not limit credit unions to serving only people of modest means. It states credit unions are to serve consumers, especially those of modest means," he wrote, adding: “Bankers would serve themselves better to stop devising schemes to block the rights of consumers.” The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has submitted an application to form a credit union for its 1.36 million members and their families. The original American Banker story surmised that a Realtors' credit union could unite NAR and credit unions behind similar issues, creating "an even more potent lobbying force on issues such as expansion of credit unions' fields of membership and regulatory relief." That theory apparently was bolstered after House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) reportedly said at an ABA conference earlier this month, "Realtors and credit unions both have better grassroots organizations than banks do."