Busy Day on Capitol Hill Caps off Exceptional Week in Washington

GoWest advocates were everywhere on Capitol Hill Wednesday as they sat down with legislators and key staff to talk about credit unions priorities and the credit union difference. Nearly 500 credit union leaders from across the six-state region spent the week inside the Beltway to remind legislators of the credit union impact.  

 In all, 47 meetings were held during the annual Hike the Hill that caps off the America’s Credit Union National Governmental Affairs Conference (ACU GAC) in Washington, D.C. The event brought thousands of credit union advocates from across the nations to D.C. For GoWest, it was about representing the more than 17.4 million constituent members from more than 300 credit unions across the region with a strong, unified voice.  

 “It’s always exciting to be part of the ACU GAC, joining thousands of credit union colleagues from across the country in sharing the credit union difference with our federal elected officials,” said GoWest’s President & CEO Troy Stang. “But the real heart is when credit union priorities connect with impactful stories from our members about how they are serving the very people those elected officials represent. That’s the true value of the not-for-profit cooperative financial services model and it is essential for consumers, communities, and a vital component of the nation’s financial structure.”  

 Advocates led discussions about protecting credit unions’ tax status, voiced opposition to interchange expansion, as well as the proposed reduction of interchange fees proposed in Reg. II by the Federal Reserve. Leaders asked Congress to protect member-focused, opt-in services like overdraft protection from being looped in with “junk fees”, while asking for support for key legislation such as modernization of the Federal Credit Union Act, SAFE Banking and the need for a national data privacy standard. Coupled with key real-time examples from their communities, the conversations were strategic and important.  

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden met with a large contingent of his credit union constituents. In his comments to the group, the long-time supporter of credit unions’ tax status reiterated his position. 

“I think you all know that I feel so strongly about the credit union tax exemption. As long as I am Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance,” he said to the sound of applause drowning him out, adding as in previous years, that CUs’ tax exemption is safe. 

 While meeting with Arizona credit unions, Representative Andy Biggs took a moment to show his credit union’s representative a little extra love. 

Colorado Representative and member of the House Financial Services Committee, Brittany Pettersen said meeting with credit union advocates was the highlight of her day.  

 “GoWest advocates were a force on the Hill, our record numbers were proof positive that our members are fully committed to advocacy,” said Ryan Fitzgerald, SVP, Advocacy, for GoWest. “Every meeting and hallway was jam-packed with our members sharing their stories with lawmakers, including two meetings with both Oregon and Washington’s Senate delegation, where our members crowded the Senate Finance Committee hearing room. As Senator Ron Wyden put it when he assessed the record crowd, ‘Pretty soon we will need a basketball arena.’”  

“These meetings are imperative for the future of our credit unions, as we build on the relationships we have with Congressional leaders and their teams,” said Ryan Fitzgerald, SVP, Advocacy, for GoWest. “They hear from our team regularly, but for them to be able to sit in the room and hear directly from credit union leaders who are serving their constituents, it truly makes a difference and advances our advocacy priorities that with protect our credit unions and ensure they thrive into the future.” 

Other highlights: 

 Leavitt Receives Farley Award 

Earlier in the week, Pam Leavitt, GoWest’s SVP of Regional Grassroots and Political Programs/Legislative Affairs for Oregon received the Eugene Farley Award, a national recognition celebrating league system visionaries who create and promote effective advocacy programs. The honor was presented March 2 at the beginning of the ACU GAC. 

Pam stood up an advocacy model that has been admired and copied nationally. When she joined the Credit Union Movement leading Oregon advocacy in 1994, immediately following a stint as a U.S. Senate staff member, Pam worked with credit unions to create an inclusive engagement platform, starting the first in-person, Credit Union Day at the Capitol events and launching CULAC Month, encouraging fun and competitive events to drive credit union employees to contribute to fundraising that elects candidates who support credit unions.  

“I am humbled to receive this award.,” Pam said. “We worked one credit union at a time to make the case for advocacy engagement, and quickly, the Oregon credit union family leaned in and engaged in the process at every step – every in-person event, call to action, candidate fundraising, and committee service that helped define credit union priorities. It’s exciting to know Oregon credit unions worked with us to develop an advocacy model that is being used across the nation!” 

Hall of Leaders Honors Champions 

On Sunday, March 3, a ceremony was held to honor sixteen credit union inductees to the Credit Union House Hall of Leaders. Three credit union champions from the GoWest region were among the honorees.  

Ezra Eckhardt from STCU, Rob Stuart from OnPoint Community Credit Union, and Kim Withers from Meridian Trust FCU were each recognized by GoWest President and CEO Troy Stang. 

Members of the Hall of Leaders are exceptional individuals that have dedicated their lives to perpetuating the credit union mission and philosophy. 

“Each of these exceptional leaders has gone the extra mile to connect and build important relationships to further advocacy priorities for credit unions in their states,” Stang said. “From building organization-wide teams of credit union advocates, to raising important funds to support credit union friendly candidates, to helping to solve the important issues in their respective communities, we are so proud of each of them and congratulate them on this tremendous honor.” 

Record Fundraising 

And if all that wasn’t enough, the delegation also focused on the need to elect and retain credit union champions in Congress. While on site in the Beltway, they raised nearly $26,000 for the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC), the CU Movement’s federal fundraising tool.  

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