Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bankers' Deposits Get Results

A powerful special interest group that supports a budget plan to let credit unions more easily convert to banks contributed $15,000 to an outside electioneering group that has spent more than $1 million since last fall to help elect GOP legislators.

The May 31 contribution by the Wisconsin Bankers Association to the Republican State Leadership Committee occurred shortly after Republicans who control the legislature added the credit union conversion plan May 12 during Joint Finance Committee consideration of the proposed 2011-13 state budget.

The legislature later approved the budget and sent it to GOP Governor Scott Walker to sign into law. The Wisconsin Bankers Association also contributed $25,000 last August 12 to the Wisconsin Governors Association – another outside electioneering group – which spent $5 million in 2010 on negative broadcast ads and other electioneering activities to help elect Walker.

The Republican State Leadership Committee spent $935,726 in the 2010 elections to support GOP legislative candidates who won the majority in the Assembly and Senate. This spring, the group spent another $97,000 on a special election for a La Crosse area Assembly seat, as well as an undisclosed amount of money on 30-second television ads pushing the recall of two Democratic state senators.

In addition to its contributions to the two Republican outside electioneering groups, the Wisconsin Bankers Association – through individual and political action committee contributions – funneled $291,802 in 2009 and 2010 to candidates for statewide office and the legislature, including $56,286 to Walker.

Credit unions and other critics of the conversion proposal object to it for two reasons. First, it is one of dozens of non-spending policy items in tucked into the budget that should be dealt with in stand-alone legislation where it can be given more public scrutiny and legislative consideration. And on the merits of the plan, the group representing credit unions claims it’s an attempt to kill credit unions by making it easier and faster for a few organized members or directors to turn them into banks.

Supporters of the plan contend it isn’t a controversial measure and only streamlines conversions, which are already allowed.

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