August 2013 Priority Report Commentary
By David Adams
I hope that you all have been enjoying the summer, at least the little bit we’ve had of summer here in Michigan. Though many think of summer as a time to slow down, it has been a busy and productive season for us here at MCUL & Affiliates.
Our trade association has been very busy with the Don’t Tax My Credit Union campaign, securing statements of support for the industry and for our tax exemption from both of our U.S. senators as well as from a majority of our House members. We have also been actively advocating on behalf of our industry at every possible opportunity. While we feel good about where we stand as an industry as Congress undertakes this unprecedented rewrite of the tax code, rest assured we’re leaving no stone unturned and will continue to aggressively counter the misstatements and distortions the bankers are putting forward while proactively making our case to our lawmakers. Just last week, a federal judge set the stage for a legal battle over the debit interchange law by saying banks and credit unions may be required to pay damages for following the Durbin Amendment. CUNA and MCUL are closely watching these developments and working with Congress to protect credit unions. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Don’t Tax My Credit Union website, share it with your members, and urge them to reach out to their representatives and tell them that a tax on credit unions would be a tax on half of this state, not to mention more than 90 million other Americans.
We’re excited about the fact that our Michigan credit union community has already generated more than 20,000 email contacts with Congress, part of more than 700,000 generated by the U.S. credit union industry. Pretty impressive, but we need even more of this activity. As you get your staff and volunteers and even your members engaged in the email writing, I encourage you to pivot those efforts toward very strong “thank yous” to the lawmakers who have given us strong statements of support.
These include both Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow as well as Congressmen Mike Rogers, Gary Peters, Dan Kildee, Kerry Bentivolio, Dan Benishek, Tim Walberg, John Dingell, Sander Levin, John Conyers and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp.
So, let’s send a steady stream of thank you emails to these lawmakers while encouraging other lawmakers to likewise take a position supporting credit unions and their tax-exempt status. Click here to visit CapWiz where you will find a sample letter that you can personalize and send to your lawmakers.
We’re also pleased at the league to welcome back Ken Ross as our executive vice president. Ross, some of you may remember, was our vice president of regulatory affairs before leaving to become state commissioner regulating financial institutions. We know that his expertise will be critical during this period of unprecedented regulatory change. I’m sure that some of you will meet him at one of our upcoming events, including the Fall Leadership Development Conference and the Executive Summit. These two highly regarded education events are held yearly in September to aid both board members and executives with challenges, compliance issues and strategies during the planning cycle.
We’re also busy working on the concepts and creative direction for next year’s CU Link cooperative advertising campaign, even as this year’s campaign continues. We’ve been testing different ideas with consumer focus groups and it won’t be long before we share those with the credit union community. The CU Link campaign is one of our primary cooperative means of sharing the credit union difference, and we know how successful it has been in moving the needle and bringing new members into the fold.
Both the CU Link campaign and the Don’t Tax My Credit Union campaign are perfect examples of advocacy in action, which is at the heart of what we do as your trade association. But we can’t do it alone. In order to keep fighting for the credit union way, to keep sharing the credit union difference, we need your help, and we’re so appreciative of all that you’ve already done.
Right now, we are preparing to once again provide our dues-paying, member credit unions with a rebate. Keep in mind that those dues have also gone down steadily over the years. Just a few years back, in 2001, our dues totaled about $3 million per year, and they’re now down to $600,000 – some of the lowest in the nation. Why are we able to do this? It’s all thanks to the strong performance of our subsidiary companies and the strong capital base that we have built that generates significant investment income for our organization as an alternative to member dues. The solid financial performance of our subsidiary, CU Solutions Group, allows us to offer you not just more bang for your buck, but to actually give some of those bucks back in the form of an MCUL dues rebate. Our CU Solutions Group subsidiary is constantly looking for and implementing new solutions such as CU Auto Club, GM Premium Membership and even a new compliance resource called ComplySight that is scheduled to be out next summer. Our solutions not only solve operational issues for you but also support your League membership.
As you may know, CUNA is calling on all credit unions to Unite for Good – to speak with a common voice, and to ensure that voice is heard with lawmakers, with the media and ultimately with consumers.
So, as you receive your third-annual 50% dues rebate, I’d like to offer you three options with that rebate, choices that stand to help us free up funds to further our advocacy over the long-term.
First, you could simply take the rebate. We’ll issue a check to you as we’ve done in years past and leave it to you to do with those funds as you see fit.
The second choice is to commit that rebate check to our CURE issue advocacy fund, which is used for special issue advocacy and advertising. By doing so, you’d be helping us to create a “war chest” of sorts, so that when something comes up, like the potential tax on credit unions, or Bank Transfer Day, or any other issue impacting credit unions, we are armed and ready to take on issues on your behalf. We also use this fund to run ads that thank lawmakers who are supportive of credit union issues. This fund has always been funded solely with MCUL subsidiary contributions. But now, both in Michigan and nationally, credit union organizations are realizing the need to build these funds, much like super PACs, so that our industry can have a strong, loud voice. Rest assured that banks, with their deep pockets, will be doing the same. We can’t afford to let bank resources out-muscle us politically.
And so, beginning with this ask for the rebate dollars, we will begin to launch annual fundraising efforts that ask credit unions for voluntary corporate contributions to the CURE issue advocacy fund. Spending decisions, usually during election cycles, will be governed by and approved by the CURE Board of Trustees, the same group that oversees PAC expenditures.
The third option would be to commit your rebate check to the 2014 CU Link campaign. Again, this would serve to further our advocacy in giving us the ability to share the credit union difference with even more consumers and lawmakers. You know how committed we are as an organization to the campaign – we provide millions of dollars in matching funds and marketing incentives to the cause. We are so appreciative of the support of our credit union community, and now we’re asking you to take it one step further. This year, our credit unions contributed a record-high $1.1 million which was matched by $1 million from the MCUL. This option would allow you to consider adding to that fund for 2014.
So again, there are three options:
You’ll receive much more information about these options and the rebate in the coming months. As always, I welcome your feedback.
View the “Michigan Priority Report” on CUBE TV for a video summary of MCUL & Affiliates CEO David Adams’ August Priority Report introduction.