A Message From Todd Mason: Why Advocacy & Political Endorsements Matter

Election season is upon us. With it comes an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the Credit Union Movement and to shape our future.

Our legislative and regulatory agenda is straightforward: to ensure that credit unions can continue improving the financial lives of all members. This may appear clear-cut. Our advocacy efforts, however, are far reaching and cover evolving issues like workforce development, cybersecurity, cannabis banking, lending, financial literacy, and the foreclosure process. Of course, the list is not static. It constantly grows and evolves at the local, state, and national levels. This year has been no exception.

When municipalities and the state were issuing “essential business” orders and defining who could and could not be open during the early days of COVID-19, Maine credit unions dodged a bullet. Because of the strength of our relationships with chambers of commerce, the Mayors’ Coalition, state elected officials, and the Mills’ administration, credit unions were included in the list of essential businesses. While I’m confident we would have been able to remedy this quickly if credit unions had been left off the list, we avoided unnecessary confusion and disruption because of the strength of our relationships.

The same could be said for recent improvements made to the foreclosure process when abandoned property is involved and the easing of Reg D requirements. It also is true for the work we and CUNA are doing now with policymakers to eliminate the requirement for small businesses to file for forgiveness if their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan is under $150,000.

Credit unions act as trusted advisors and member advocates for our elected officials. In this role, we provide the best information possible to help them understand the credit union difference and the impact their policy decisions have on our members and us.  Our knowledge, credibility, and expertise help ensure credit union interests are represented when it matters most. Going back to the example above, recognizing credit unions as “essential businesses” is symbolically important as it demonstrates how we are perceived, and tangibly important because it ensured uninterrupted service to members. There also are times, when we ask our elected officials, regardless of their political party affiliation, to make tough decisions between multiple constituents and to support us. Foreclosure is a prime example.

While by no means tit for tat, friends should support friends. For elected officials, one of the best and most critical times to provide support is during the election season. Monetary contributions are an important component. In fact, look for an email soon from Robert Caverly, League Vice President of Governmental Affairs, asking for contributions to help with state-level races. Endorsements are another way to demonstrate support.

I know endorsements are not beloved by all among us. They can be risky. But it is that very riskiness that makes them so valuable to the candidates that support our issues and our philosophy. It is akin to the risk we ask them take to support our issues, especially when choosing between constituents. Candidates seek out our endorsement because they know the credibility and strength we carry. They also know our endorsements, whether they get one or not, are principle-based and not influenced by political affiliation.

Endorsements are not done in a vacuum. We review voting records. We use data from a survey we ask candidates to complete. We look at candidate involvement with credit unions. We evaluate alignment with credit union philosophy. The Governmental Affairs Committee has meaningful discourse to vet, select, and recommend candidates for endorsement. These recommendations are then reviewed and considered by the League Board as a final check. Each step is guided by our Endorsement Policy, which is reviewed and updated as needed each election cycle. We also validate the continuation of our endorsement process as part of this policy.

With that said, we will be making endorsements again this year and expect to announce them in September after we complete all of these steps. We will continue to keep you informed, provide talking points, and publish the list of endorsements when ready on the League’s website. These endorsements will not only demonstrate the strength of credit unions, but show our support for those who support us.