Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Credit Union Members, Bankers Flood Congress

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Credit Union Members, Bankers Flood Congress

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- When congressional staffers aren't sifting through postcards from credit union members, they're meeting with local bankers these days.

Two of the country's best-monied interests are asking Congress to decide just how far credit unions can expand their services and membership.

The issue has emerged because the Supreme Court last month ruled that corporate credit unions could not accept outside members. A bill to overturn that decision was approved Thursday by the House Banking Committee on a voice vote. The banking industry is spending $1 million to bring local bankers to the capital to make a personal pitch for limitations on credit unions. They are armed with a 13-to-1 advantage in political donations over credit unions and a 5-to-1 advantage in money spent on professional lobbyists. For their part, credit unions are trying to mobilize their 70 million-plus members. At some credit unions, members filing out deposit slips are also offered a telephone to call Congress or pre- addressed postcards, awaiting just a personal note. Other credit unions offer postcards with pre-written messages supporting the legislation that need just a signature. Back in the district, credit unions members show up en masse for meetings with their representatives. "They have really energized their membership," said Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill. "It's not difficult for them to put 1,000, 4,000 or 5,000 people in a room. Here, I'm sponsoring the bill and it impresses me." On the other side, the American Bankers Association has a monthly magazine, biweekly newsletter and weekly fax report, all exhorting local bankers to contact Congress. The Independent Bankers Association of America, the trade group for smaller banks, allocated $1 million to send bankers to Washington to meet lawmakers. They are willing to let credit unions expand their membership without restrictions, as long as they are subject to the same taxes and regulations as banks. …

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