Money and Democracy

Published — March 13, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Embattled finance committee chairman gets help from credit unions

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. Charles Dharapak/AP

Congressman faces stiff challenge in Alabama primary


Scandal-plagued Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus is fighting for his political life in Tuesday’s primary, but not everyone has given up on him — the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee can still count on his friends in the credit union industry.

CUNA, the Credit Union National Association, spent nearly $28,000 on last-minute radio ads supporting the Republican congressman, one of the most influential lawmakers in Washington when it comes to regulating the financial services sector.

Bachus hit the headlines last month when he was featured on “60 Minutes” and in a book for allegedly using inside information to make trades on stock options, prompting an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Making matters worse, Bachus has been on the receiving end of more than $200,000 in attack ads from an upstart super PAC called the “Campaign for Primary Accountability,” a Texas-based group that has been critical of incumbents in several districts across the country.

CUNA spokesman Patrick Keefe told iWatch News that over the years, Bachus has shown that he understands and supports credit unions.

“This particular contest is getting closer, and, as we support Rep. Bachus, we thought our involvement could be helpful to his chances,” Keefe said.

Bachus, who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, is facing several primary challengers in today’s election, including state Sen. Scott Beason, a favorite of many Tea Party conservatives.

In the credit union-sponsored radio ad, Bachus is touted as the “the most conservative member of the Alabama delegation” and as “leading the fight to cut federal spending, reduce burdensome regulations and create good quality jobs.“

CUNA ranks as the No. 12 all-time donor to Bachus over his career, with its political action committee and employees contributing $76,500, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That includes the legal maximum of $10,000 from the PAC so far this election cycle.

CUNA and its subsidiaries have spent more than $47 million on lobbying since 1998, according to CRP, including about $5.9 million last year. Among the group’s top priorities is limiting the impact of new regulations called for by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Bachus, who has relied on the finance, insurance and real estate sectors for nearly $1 out of every $2 he’s raised so far this election cycle, according to CRP, voted against that legislation, and said at the time he doesn’t “find a lot of good in the bill.”

Bachus has taken heat for his vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out banks during the final months of President George W. Bush’s second term.

A spokesman for Bachus did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, but Bachus said when the investigation was made public that “I welcome this opportunity to present the facts and set the record straight.”

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