Credit unions hear so much about the importance of grassroots political action and fund raising for our state and federal political action committees (PACs) that the message may seem redundant — even tedious at times.
But there’s a very good reason for the repetition and reinforcement: An effective legislative presence in Lansing and Washington and strong PACs are absolutely essential if credit unions are going to have a future.
An overstatement? Absolutely not. Credit unions are, after all, the result of legislative action, be it the Federal Credit Union Act nationwide or the Michigan Credit Union Act here in our home state. Virtually everything that credit unions do is subject to legislative action or regulatory overview. We can’t afford to be spectators in this critical legislative process; we need to be hands-on participants.
The vital importance of effective legislative advocacy has never been more evident than in 2006, with the entire Michigan Legislature, the governorship and other statewide offices all up for election in November. In addition, we all witnessed the hearing before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee late last year which resulted in a bevy of testimony hostile to credit unions.
Clearly, the hearings raised a red flag regarding some lawmakers’ perceptions regarding the credit union tax status and our social mission. And, while the Committee did not call for credit unions to be taxed, Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., strongly urged regulators to collect quantifying data on credit unions’ service to the public to justify their tax exemption.
Make no mistake: The threat to our federal corporate income tax exemption is still very real. The banking industry continues to set its sites on credit unions, and we need to have strong state and federal PACs to protect our members and the American consumer.
Recently, the MCUL’s state and federal PACs — MCULAF and MCULLAF, respectively — closed the books on a successful 2005. Collectively in 2005, totals of $223,051.21 were raised for MCULLAF (federal) and $106,103.70 for MCULAF (state). These are impressive numbers, but we need to do even better in 2006.
One means of accomplishing that for MCULAF (state) is the introduction of a prestigious new level to the MCULAF lapel pin lineup to further boost 2006 fund raising. Credit union professionals, volunteers and members now have available a $500 Chairman’s Club lapel pin, with proceeds going to the MCULAF. Previously, the highest pin was $250.
Lapel pin sales continue to be a critical component of our state PAC fund raising. We realize that a $500 MCULAF contribution is something that many people will find unaffordable, but even a small response at that level will generate a considerable sum for MCULAF.
Plus, purchasers of the $500 pins will have standing invitations to attend special 2006 functions and fund-raisers featuring prominent political leaders. Having a Chairman’s Club pin will get you a complimentary admission to several fund-raisers and special events. So, in effect, purchasing the Chairman’s Club pin will not only give a big boost to credit union political action efforts, it could actually save you money over the course of the year.
Now is a good opportunity to acknowledge some outstanding 2005 achievements in PAC fund raising. Kudos first of all to the Blue Ox Chapter, which earned the Trustees’ Award by achieving 204 percent of its federal PAC goal and 237 percent of its state PAC target. Other chapters that achieved their federal PAC goals in 2005 were Downriver (196 percent) and Mid-Michigan (198 percent), while state PAC targets were reached by Blue Water (154 percent), Jackson (140 percent), Mid-Michigan (117 percent) and Huron Valley (108 percent).
Several individual credit unions have been named 2005 PAC fundraising award recipients as 48 Michigan credit unions reached 100 percent of both their MCULLAF (federal) and MCULAF (state) goals. Three credit unions were recognized with the Chairman’s Award for achieving the highest percentage of their state PAC goal in their respective asset sizes — Town and Country Family CU (MM), Iosco Community CU (BO) and Frankenmuth CU (MM). The three federal PAC award recipients were Monroe Automotive FCU (DR), Wy-South FCU (DR) and Central Michigan Community FCU (MM).
The President’s Award, recognizing the credit union raising the largest amount of money overall, went to Michigan Catholic FCU (OC) for the state PAC, having raised $4,510; and Dow Chemical Emp. CU (MM) for the federal PAC, having raised $14,474.95.
The Forum Appreciation Award, recognizing achievement of 100 percent or more of the state or federal PAC goals, was presented to 98 credit unions for MCULAF (state) fund-raising efforts and 92 credit unions for MCULLAF (federal).
There’s no reason every credit union and every chapter can’t achieve similar results — especially considering how much is at stake. English political writer and orator Edmund Burke once famously observed that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The credit union movement’s version of that quote might be, “the only thing necessary for credit union taxation, over-regulation, and marginalization to the detriment of the American consumer, is for credit union people to do nothing.”
Let’s all get involved in grassroots advocacy by contacting and meeting with our legislators, participating in events like the Legislative Breakfasts with lawmakers, Hike the Hill and Capitol Day, and contributing whatever we can to our state and federal PACs. History has demonstrated that a strong, unified, energized credit union movement is virtually invincible politically. Let’s make that vision a reality for the sake of today’s and tomorrow’s credit union members!