GAC Coverage: NC Credit Unions Conclude Successful Hill Visits

Nearly 80 NC credit union representatives converged on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to share their stories with members of Congress. Even though credit unions are holding up very well in the financial crisis, there are still some relevant issues on the table – so it was good to meet with lawmakers and relate these issues.

For lawmakers, the credit union visits were a refreshing change of pace from the daily grind of hearing about meltdowns and taxpayer bailouts. The pace up here is breakneck – even more so than normal.

The credit union groups shared their perspectives on issues such as the mortgage cramdown bill, interchange fee income, member business lending and changing the amount of time to restore the Share Insurance Fund. The tone of the meetings overall was positive, and there is a sense that credit unions are the “shining stars” right now as one credit union person put it. 

In the above video, credit union people who made those visits share the issues of importance to their credit unions and speak to the mood in Washington these days.

As part of these interviews, I had the great privilege of chatting with Greensboro Health Care Credit Union manager Genice DeCorte. DeCorte is a passionate advocate for the credit union movement, and cares deeply about people. This truth shines through in the below video, which shares how DeCorte and the credit union are helping people in the current economy.

As we head back to NC there’s a great sense that credit unions, despite all that has happened in the last several weeks, are doing great things in the eyes of our elected leaders.

GAC Close: Dave Barry Wows ‘Em with An Exploding Whale Tale …

What a way to close the 2008 CUNA GAC! Even as the House Financial Services Committee was starting its hearing on the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act, the 4,700 attendees of GAC were closing out the conference with belly laughs courtesy one Dave Barry. The Miami-based humorist told many a funny story, including the true account of Oregon’s exploding whale.

Now, the whale didn’t explode on its own – it had help from the Oregon State Highway Division. If you missed his presentation and have a couple of minutes to kill, here’s Barry’s column detailing what happened on the beach in Oregon in 1970.

And because Friday is here and it seems like today is as good a day as any to show you video of an exploding whale, the news report of the event that sparked Barry’s 1990 column follows.

A Flurry of Hill Meetings on a Most Exciting Day

I love to watch credit union people converge on Capitol Hill to tell their stories to elected leaders in Washington. The discussions are quite cordial and they showcase the work that credit unions in NC are doing to serve members. (A few Flickr photos are located here.)

This year, we kicked off our meetings with Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr in the Indian Affairs Committee Room. It’s a beautiful space that in this case was packed to the gills with 120 NC credit union people. Senator Dole praised the work of credit union people in NC. Recalling her years in the American Red Cross, Dole likened credit union work to the mission field. “Making that positive difference in so many lives has to be so rewarding for you,” Dole remarked to the credit union staff and volunteers.

Credit union people taking their message to Washington were energized by the news that a companion bill to CURIA was introduced in the Senate early Wednesday morning. Despite a lot of walking through the various offices buildings through the afternoon, this news gave an extra spring to everyone’s steps.

It’s tempting to get all wonky in these meetings and talk about how policy changes would impact the ability of credit unions to fulfill their missions – but really, the work of credit unions speaks for itself. When you share the ways in which consumers benefit from choosing a credit union, you really show how different — how unique — credit unions are in the marketplace.

When you start talking about the difference credit unions make for members … like the year-end rebate that a North State Telco CU member received … and how he gave this rebate money away to help save a family he cared about from foreclosure … you begin to discover the real differences between banks and credit unions.

Banking industry flacks like to compare surface things like products or brick and mortar in a vain effort to restrict credit union growth — but we all know it ain’t about that. It’s about that mission field that Senator Dole talked about. It’s the chance to get up out of bed and know you can do something good for people, and make the world around you better.

That daily commitment, and the values that commitment reflects, can’t be legislated into or out of existence. 

Wednesday Morning Update – Our Trek to the Hill!

The 120 representatives of NC credit unions have really enjoyed their stay in Washington thus far – and today, the rubber meets the road! Late this morning, our group will head to the Capitol to meet with Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr – these meetings will kick off our afternoon of visits with members of Congress from NC.

The group is anxious to meet with our elected officials and share their thoughts about credit union regulatory relief. I think our elected leaders also appreciate it when they get the opportunity to meet with “real folks” from back home as well.

In addition to reg relief, the group will be sharing how NC credit unions are returning value to their members and boosting the NC economy. Included in this will be the stories of a few NC credit unions that made year-end dividends and rebates. Combined, these credit unions put more than $750,000 back into the hands of members – many of whom live in small towns in NC that are struggling economically!

Much more to come on our day in DC on the Hill. In the meantime a few pictures are posted on Flickr. Click here to view them in a slide show. Much more to come!

The King & the General Energize GAC Audience

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The 2008 CUNA GAC has given NC credit unions a lot to crow about in the past couple of days. Last evening, we watched as State Employees’ Credit Union received the Herb Wegner Award for the outstanding accomplishments of its Foundation. The SECU Foundation, which is only three years old, has already given millions of dollars to support education in NC, health care and human services in the Tar Heel State.

Of particular note are the scholarships that the foundation awards to one student in each public high school in NC each year! The Foundation has also made an interest-free loan to aid in the construction of a housing complex for teachers in eastern NC. This complex has helped teachers come into Hertford County,  a rural and economically stressed school system. This housing complex has been so successful, the Foundation is now in the process of replicating it in other counties!

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Today, an accomplishment credit unions in both Carolinas share in hit the GAC stage. Richard Petty surprised the 4,700 person audience by appearing at GAC about 9:30 am. Petty, whose family started the Victory Junction Gang Camp a few years back, praised the more than $1.6 million credit unions in the Carolinas have combined to give to the camp for chronically ill children.

The King also announced the Petty clan is planning a new camp for the Kansas City area – and he called on credit unions to support this new effort.

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Later in the morning, retired General and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell brought an optimistic message to the GAC halls. Powell reminded the audience how different the world was in the cold war era in which he served as a soldier, and how the world has so dramatically changed. Powell also told many humorous stories about his time in Washington as Secretary of State.  

The CULAC Raffle

One of the fun events that happens each year at GAC is the CULAC Raffle. This raffle, while helping raise funds, also provide entrants with the chance to win some great prizes.

Mickey Fanney, the League’s Grassroots/Political Action Specialist, clues us in on the raffle and its importance. Mickey has done a wonderful job the past two years energizing NC credit unions in a very important aspect of our grassroots efforts.

(Edit to add that Mickey reports that NC credit union people combined to raise more than $5,200 for CULAC in the raffle this year. Way to go, everyone!)

GAC Monday Session Sights and Sounds


The 2008 CUNA GAC is officially underway! The exhibit hall opened today, and the first general sessions were held at the Washington Convention Center.

The new location is being hailed by everyone as a roomy facility that is really going to allow this conference to continue its growth in the future. NC credit unions have heard the call to pack the convention center, bringing 120 people to the conference! This is an increase of more than 30 people from last year! All told, more than 4,700 credit union people are here – it’s a glorious thing!

The video captures a few of the sights and a few thoughts from the NC contingent. Also, Brent Dixon is doing terrific work posting pictures, audios and videos from national CU figures at GAC. You’ll find this on the REAL Solutions page .. http://realsolutions.coop/. Check it out! (A late edit to add that our friends in Michigan are chronicling the GAC day-by-day as well, and you’ll find news-style reports from the Michigan CU League’s Mike Bridges at http://cunagac.cutvonline.com/.) 

We’re shutting down the videocamera for today, and will spend the evening watching State Employees’ Credit Union being honored at the Herb Wegner dinner. It’s a great day to be a Tar Heel! More video highlights tomorrow …