When Was the First Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC)?
In order to create a more coherent legislative strategy, CUNA decided to combine (1) a Governmental Affairs Conference, (2) a meeting of the National Legislative Forum, and (3) the quarterly meetings of CUNA’s Executive Committee. The goal of this “precedent-setting series of meetings” was to pull nationally known speakers, politicians, government officials, and credit union leaders together under one roof to discuss the most critical credit union issues of the day. Accordingly, this meeting introduced credit union leaders to the Washington political process, while introducing political leaders to the grassroots movement of credit unions.
This first meeting held February 23-26, 1976, bore the tongue-twisting title, “A Changing Financial Marketplace in the Post-Bicentennial Decade” and was held at the Marriott Twin Bridges Hotel in Washington, DC. The meeting was attended by over 700 credit union professionals and volunteers and required the use of three different hotels.
Among the topics discussed were the “technological future” of electronic fund transfers (EFT), its machinery, legislation, challenges, and benefits. Almarin Phillips, member National Commission on EFT, noted that the EFT system “changes the ball game” for credit unions. He predicted that automated tellers would become “as common as the Coke machine” and furthermore, that “a mini-computer will cost you less than a secretary.” While United States Representative Henry Reuss (D-WI) lamented that “the public is sick of the big banks calling the shots. You don’t have the campaign contributions the bankers have, but you have a right to compete. I believe that small is beautiful. I think this country needs more smaller centers of power.” And, CUNA President Mandeville Hellie noted that with all of the strengths of credit unions, “there isn’t a single thing we can’t do.”
It is clear that 1976 established the GAC as it is known today. The February quarterly meeting of the Executive Committee blossomed into one of the most important and influential must attend meetings of the Credit Union National Association.