Courtney Schoenborn: Election-season advocacy

Michigan community bankers present an ICBPAC check to Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.). From left: Marcia Hune of Governmental Consultant Services Inc.; Rep. Bishop; Peter Kubacki, CEO of Dart Bank in Mason, Mich.; Bill Hufnagel, Dart Bank president; Mike Tierney, CEO of the Community Bankers of Michigan; and Sally Rae, Dart Bank executive vice president.

As voters hit the polls, ICBA is out in front on industry advocacy.

By Courtney Schoenborn and Joshua Habursky, ICBA

As voters prepare to head to the polls for this month’s midterm elections, ICBA has been working on multiple fronts to maximize support for pro-community bank policies. In addition to maintaining a strong presence in Washington, ICBA harnesses the collective power of community banks to directly engage with policymakers and their constituents.

Most recently, ICBA and community bankers went directly to constituents with a bipartisan campaign applauding the work of pro-community bank members of Congress and encouraging them to continue their support of local communities.

Snapshot

How ICBPAC puts your contributions to work

$1.9 million

Amount ICBPAC distributed to more than 300 federal candidates and committees in
2015-16

3,000

Number of community bankers who make personal contributions to ICBPAC
each year

65

Number of ICBPAC contributions that community bankers personally presented to pro-community banking candidates this
election cycle

The issue advocacy campaign targets the constituents of 13 members of the House and Senate who have stood up for Main Street, including Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and others.

“ICBA’s politics is community banking,” ICBA president and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said. “We are bipartisan and support policies and policymakers that support the nation’s more than 5,000 community banks and the communities and customers they serve nationwide. The passage of S.2155 was a major victory for every Main Street town—urban, suburban and rural—that’s served by a community bank.”

These and other ICBA-supported lawmakers were instrumental in passing the ICBA-advocated S.2155, also known as the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.

The landmark measure, signed into law earlier this year, includes common-sense improvements to the nation’s financial rules that will allow community banks to better serve their customers and communities. The ICBA campaign is designed to increase awareness among constituents of the critical role these members of Congress have served in furthering local lending, economic growth and job creation in their home districts.

ICBA chose these members of Congress to maximize our impact in several important and influential states and congressional districts. We continue to support the many other lawmakers who have been community banking champions in Congress, particularly those who backed S.2155.

ICBA showed its support during a recent reception on Capitol Hill to celebrate the law’s pro-community bank regulatory relief policies. Featuring opening remarks from Rainey, the reception hosted numerous lawmakers and staff members from congressional offices who have been champions of community banks in Washington.

Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), French Hill (R-Ark.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) were among the attendees.

Being heard

Meanwhile, community bankers have shown themselves to be incredibly strong advocates, maintaining regular direct communications with members of Congress on pressing issues. During the August and October recesses, community bankers hosted dozens of meetings with lawmakers.

Using ICBA’s “Meetings on Main Street” guide, which offers tools to schedule, conduct and promote meetings, many community bankers hosted legislators in their own branches and boardrooms. These meetings are not only essential for discussing key issues in person and showing lawmakers how their policies affect community banks on a day-to-day basis, but in developing these important relationships over time.

This year, community bankers used these meetings to advocate for a number of industry priorities, such as addressing the credit union tax advantage and following up on S.2155 with additional regulatory relief.

But those community bankers who didn’t procure meetings have still had plenty of opportunities to make their voices heard in Washington. Responding to alerts from ICBA, community bankers nationwide have used ICBA’s Be Heard Grassroots Action Center (icba.org/beheard) to send messages and phone calls to members of Congress on critical issues. Recent grassroots campaigns call on policymakers to pass the farm bill, maximize access to the Subchapter S tax deduction, reform the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair lending disparate-impact rule, streamline the Bank Secrecy Act framework and more.

Alongside the robust advocacy activity of ICBA and community bankers across the nation, ICBA’s nonpartisan political action committee is a vital part of the industry’s outreach efforts. The Independent Community Bankers Political Action Committee (ICBPAC) is the only national federal PAC dedicated exclusively to representing the community banking industry.

Election funding

Supported by the personal contributions of more than 3,000 community bankers each year, ICBPAC distributed $1.9 million to more than 300 federal candidates and committees for the 2015-16 election cycle—and we’re on track to do so again in 2018.

Together with input from community bankers and state partners, ICBA advocacy staff members take pride in carefully evaluating which federal candidates and committees deserve the PAC’s support each election cycle. Important factors to ICBPAC’s nonpartisan approach in evaluating candidates and committees include commitment to supporting community banking priorities, assignments to key committees, representation of community banking locations, congressional leadership roles and evaluation of election dynamics.

ICBA’s advocacy team met with dozens of candidates in open seats this election cycle. This important step in the candidate-evaluation process provides an opportunity not only to get to know prospective members of Congress, but to share the key priorities and issues facing community bankers.

Earlier this year, we set a goal to have 50 contributions from ICBPAC delivered in person by community bankers to candidates or incumbent members of Congress seeking reelection. Thanks to the efforts of engaged community bankers and our state partners, we’ve exceeded that goal, with more than 65 ICBPAC contributions presented by ICBA members and state partners to pro-community banking candidates from Naples, Fla., to Everett, Wash.

This nationwide effort to provide ICBPAC support in person emphasizes the impact of political engagement by community bankers.

As community bankers themselves head to the polls this month, they can rest assured that the industry utilizes many avenues to the policymaking process. Through ICBA, community bankers can access a variety of advocacy resources to be active and be heard.

10-point CEO advocacy checklist

As community bank CEOs look to maximize their advocacy influence, here are 10 steps to activate your bank this November—and beyond.

  1. Spend five minutes orienting new employees about community bank advocacy and what your bank does throughout the year to promote community banking before lawmakers and regulators.
  2. Share ICBA’s “What is Advocacy?” document during the new employee onboarding process to get them up to speed.
  3. Encourage new employees to follow ICBA on social media, where grassroots action alerts are often posted.
  4. Answer ICBA’s community banker calls to action, including petitions, emails, calls, tweets and in-person legislator meetings.
  5. Forward these calls to action throughout your bank and to your bank’s board of directors.
  6. Designate an advocacy liaison in your community bank to stay up to date on community bank public policy issues and advocacy initiatives.
  7. Attend the ICBA Capital Summit in the spring to lobby Congress in person.
  8. Host a member of Congress at your community bank or visit their district office in August to follow up on ICBA Capital Summit meetings.
  9. Write an op-ed at least once a year on the importance of community banking to the economy or on a specific public policy concern of community banking. (Custom op-eds are available on the ICBA website.)
  10. Support pro-community banking candidates. Encourage employees and bank directors to participate and vote.

For more information, visit icba.org/advocacy


Courtney Schoenborn (courtney.schoenborn@icba.org) is ICBA first vice president of political operations and advocacy.

Joshua Habursky (joshua.habursky@icba.org) is ICBA assistant vice president of advocacy.

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