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Chief Architect of HR 1151 Reflects on Lessons Learned
Monday, August 13, 2018 6:50 AM

 ‘It was a wake-up call for credit unions to evolve politically and get active.’

On the 20-year anniversary of the passage of H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act, Buddy Gill, chief architect of the fight, reflects on the efforts to pass this historic legislation and lessons that still apply today.

Passage of HR 1151 was a modern day "David vs. Goliath" battle, says the former political strategist and credit union lobbyist. Afterward, credit unions became a political force and remain so today, says Gill, a former NCUA senior advisor who’s now an Engagement Consultant with CUNA.

CUNA News: What stands out most to you from this time?

Gill: This really was a David versus Goliath battle. We were not favored to win because the banks were well heeled and feared in Congress, and credit unions were seen as the little guys.

Lawmakers care about three things: votes, money, and the media. They want the media to say good things about them.

This was a classic dilemma for members of Congress: Do I go with the banks and the money, or do I go with the credit unions and my constituents, where the votes are?

We knew if we made it a “bank versus credit union” fight only, we’d lose, because banks are friends of many in Congress and fund their campaigns. So we mobilized the leaders of select employee groups (SEGs) as well as grassroots members to speak up for us.

That way, it wasn’t “are you with your credit union or bank” but “are you with the firefighters in the district? Are you with the teachers, the local manufacturing plant, and the hospital that’s the largest employer in your district, all having a credit union for their employees and that may be affected if you don’t act?”

That was the secret sauce. Lawmakers now saw credit unions were weaved into the political fabric of what makes their district tick in a way they had not processed before.

Read the rest of the article on CUNA News.