The National Association of Federal Credit Unions hosted a “fly-in” this week, bringing members to Washington to visit Capitol Hill and directly lobby their representatives. The American Banker’s Association was not amused.
Fly-ins are a popular tool used by trade groups to leverage the power of their members. Hundreds, or thousands, of executives from member organizations flood Capitol Hill — sincere amateur lobbyists who, especially in the case of credit unions, have strong ties to the local communities lawmakers rely on for support and campaign money. For a group like the NAFCU, which runs a mid-sized lobbying operation a fly-in can carry a message to far more congressional offices than paid lobbyists can on their own.
But credit unions are in the middle of a feud with big banks. Credit unions are legally nonprofits and are exempt from paying taxes. That’s a sore point for commercial banks, which have been losing business to traditionally more customer friendly credit unions. So big banks have gone on the warpath against the credit union’s tax exemption. It might have been useful when credit unions were small and representing “the little guy”, but they’re not small anymore, claims a well-orchestrated campaign in recent months by the American Bankers Association.