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Monday's Wrap-Up at CUNA GAC
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 6:50 AM

The CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference is in full swing, and the agenda covers an impressive array of relevant topics, addressed by experts in the industry. In addition to a conversation between CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle and former President George W. Bush, the conference offered many sessions of high interest to attendees. Here's a brief wrap-up of Monday's events.

CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan led a session Monday on 360 degrees of advocacy, removing regulatory barriers, and expanding credit union powers.

Donovan also addressed ways for credit unions to attack issues from all angles—fiercely and boldly—to enhance payments security, preserve the credit union tax status, expand and protect CU powers to ensure continued relevancy.

He discussed the concept of an advocacy army consisting of a united CUNA/League/credit union system that is able to saturate policymakers with unified messaging. He reminded attendees that advocacy is a process, not an event and, to date, the CUNA/League system has outperformed every other trade association in the country.

Credit union goals for Hill visits this week include:

  • Advocacy for S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which helps Main Street, not Wall Street.
  • Enhanced payments security, to include that merchants that accept cards for payment should be held to same levels of accountability as the institutions that issue them.
  • Fighting predatory ADA litigation: update websites with WCAG 2.0 standards, but also don’t allow predatory litigators to attack our institutions.
  • Thanking legislators for protecting the credit union tax status.

National Credit Union Administration Chairman Mark McWatters spoke to GAC attendees and said NCUA has made great progress, but work continues. He notes that the credit union system is undergoing significant change and that the agency is working alongside credit unions to effect this change.

McWatters noted some NCUA accomplishments, including:

  • Closed stabilization fund four years ahead of schedule
  • Calculation of share insurance fund distribution
  • Anticipates future payments of distributions to the credit union community
  • Agency more efficient with their costs and actions
  • Agency is more transparent and accountable
  • Increased collaboration

A credit union in New Hampshire is contributing 100 percent of distributions to charity, McWatters said, and he challenged the rest of the credit union community to do likewise or similar.

McWatters said he grew up in a household where you were accountable for your actions and beliefs. He talked about striving to find the best ideas for crafting and revisiting regulations, adopting a policy of inclusiveness to find the simplest and most straight forward solutions that allow forward movement. Sometimes the simplest solution is often the most elegant solution to complex problems, McWatters said.

CUNA Chief Political Officer Richard Gose presented on the importance of political engagement. He discussed the Phone2Action initiative where attendees and those watching the video streaming texted CUVOICE to 52886 to immediately contact their lawmakers.

Cornerstone has a Phone2Action program in use in Oklahoma. Phone2Action is a powerful new grassroots activation tool that makes it easy for you to contact your legislator when critical issues arise. Credit unions can sign up to receive alerts that will provide important background information as well as several options for contacting your legislator. Cornerstone credit unions in Oklahoma can contact Nate Webb at for more information about signing up.

Gose also discussed the Member Activation Program (MAP) that continues to build momentum. Currently, 550 credit unions across the country are enrolled. MAP encompasses 30 million credit union members, and digital communications to those members gets an open rate of 25 percent and a click rate of 3 percent.

Gose noted that only 11 percent of Americans believe that Congress cares what constituents think. However, in-person visits, and especially constituent visits, are the most powerful ways to influence decisions of legislators. He said political engagement requires a fusion of citizen advocacy and professional advocacy, including facts mixed with stories from back home.

He emphasized the importance of building relationships, including looking for ways to "hug a porcupine."

Goss said that political engagement funds could be broken down as follows:

  • $5.5 million for CULAC
  • $2.1 million in issue advocacy
  • $1.75 million in campaigns
  • $250,000 in bank attacks response