GAC: Northwest Credit Unions Bring Powerful Message to D.C. and Come Home with Honors

Last week nearly 5,000 credit union leaders and advocates gathered in our nation’s capital to make the credit union difference known in the halls of power at CUNA’s annual Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). They were welcomed by senators and representatives, a packed agenda and inspiring keynote speakers.

Over 200 advocates from the Northwest made the cross-country trip to continue strengthening relationships with their senators and representatives, and to make the contributions and needs of credit unions known in our federal legislature.

“It was amazing to see such a strong delegation from the Northwest,” said Jennifer Wagner, the NWCUA’s senior vice president for advocacy. “We filled Congressional offices and made it clear that our message was backed up by the millions of members we represent back home. There is no stronger advocacy than showing up in a legislator’s office and sharing your message face to face. And last week our message was heard loud and clear at the Capitol.”

Northwest credit unions and their people also received some of the biggest honors at this year’s GAC.

  • Woodstone Credit Union President and CEO Susan Streifel was elected as the new Chairwoman of CUNA’s Board of Directors.
  • Retired CEO of Blue Mountain Credit Union Bob Schumacher was honored with the Herb Wegner Award for Lifetime Achievement, with our own NWCUA COO Denise Gabel once again taking over the honor of emceeing the ceremony.
  • Oregon credit unions were honored with the Vanguard CULAC Award for their advocacy fundraising.
  • Oregon State Credit Union was honored with two Desjardins Financial Education Awards, one for adults and one for youth.
  • Mid Oregon Credit Union was honored with a Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Honorable Mention.
Schumacher accepts lifetime award

Bob Schumacher accepts the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.

“Northwest credit unions showed what makes our region special last week,” said Troy Stang, president and CEO of the NWCUA. “They showed up in force, they brought a powerful message to the hill, and they were honored by the movement for their tremendous accomplishments. We are incredibly grateful for their investment in the strength and future of the credit union movement.”

GAC started Monday morning with an opening session that saw CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle take the stage at his first annual conference with his wife Karen. The two of them drew laughs with a quick House of Cards homage before Nussle launched into his message.

“If we are truly going to make a difference for credit union members — each and every one of us needs to be engaged in the ambitious struggle to remove barriers, raise awareness, and foster service excellence in all that we do for current and future credit union members,” said Nussle in a follow-up reinforcing his GAC message.

Some of the biggest news from the conference came from National Credit Union Administration Chair Debbie Matz, who said that she intends to make 2015 the “year of regulatory relief.” She outlined five areas of relief the agency was focused on:

  • Counting supplemental capital;
  • Expanding fields of membership;
  • Removing the fixed-assets limit;
  • Permitting asset securitization; and,
  • Easing member business lending.

The conference went on to include addresses from senators and representatives, including House Speaker John Boehner, and talks from such figures as Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

On Tuesday, Northwest credit union advocates gathered for a legislative briefing that kicked off with a special address from NCUA Board Member Mark McWatters. McWatters asked and answered questions with the gathered advocates, and praised Chairwoman Matz’s promise of regulatory relief.

Senator Merkley Greets Northwest Credit Union Advocates

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon greets credit union advocates during their Wednesday hill meetings.

Northwest advocates took to the hill on Wednesday, visiting every legislative office representing Washington and Oregon. They brought a strong message of the value of credit unions, and crucial information about the challenges their legislators could help abate.

They shared numbers from the recent credit union impact report, including district-level analyses that showed how each representative’s district benefited from the structure, value and impact of credit unions. They shared their concerns about the ways in which unnecessary regulations limited their abilities to serve their members at full capacity. And they shared the costs of recent data breaches like those at Target and Home Depot, pointing out how credit unions bear the costs of these breaches while retailers are free to maintain suboptimal security standards.

They finished their day on the hill with a reception for legislators and their staff, where they mingled and deepened relationships with these important influencers. For more coverage, see this post that we updated throughout GAC.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

Posted in Advocacy News, Awards, CUNA, Events.