From the desk of Rose Oswald Poels, President and CEO, Wisconsin Bankers Association

Many of you have heard me or another WBA representative speak about the importance of industry advocacy. Maybe you’ve even attended our Capitol Day event, traveled to Washington D.C. with us, or responded to an Action Alert by contacting your elected officials. 

Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you today that it’s not enough. While WBA is well-respected in the Capitol and known as a source of expertise, we don’t have the same level of political clout as some of our competitors, including credit unions. 

The good news is, we can grow our influence. There’s a reason they call it “political capital.” The dollars you contribute to WBA’s political action funds have a real impact on your association’s ability to defeat anti-banking bills and push pro-banking laws across the finish line. That impact comes from two angles. 

First, by donating to the campaigns of pro-banking candidates through WBA’s political action funds, you help keep (or get) individuals elected who will stand by the industry and author or support the legislation our industry needs in order to stay competitive. Second, with sufficient political capital on hand, WBA is able to remain in the good graces of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Remember: we are B for Banker, not D or R. 

I know that donating your hard-earned funds to WBA’s political action funds doesn't have the same emotional resonance as giving to your favorite charitable cause, but it can exponentially impact your community and the banking industry in positive ways. When more bankers contribute politically, the association is better equipped to win key legislative battles, improving the industry’s ability to do business and generate profits, which in turn go to benefit the community, whether through your bank’s charitable donations or your personal contributions to a cause. 

Our first mailing seeking political contributions was sent back in March right when COVID-19 hit. As a result, we are 20-30% behind in political fund contributions compared to a normal year. WBA needs $250,000 at minimum per year in political contributions from the industry to help achieve our advocacy goals. 

Join me in leading by example and hold a campaign at your bank if you haven’t already. I personally have been giving at least $3,000 each year for the last several years to support the industry politically, and the WBA staff collectively are in the top five out of all member banks for total giving. Your personal involvement will encourage and motivate your staff to also get involved. Whether it’s through personal financial contributions, vocal support of WBA’s advocacy programs (and encouraging staff to attend), giving your employees time off to vote, or designating an up-and-comer as your bank’s Advocacy Officer, you have the unique ability and responsibility to be an active participant in our industry’s political defense. 

For all of you who regularly donate, attend Capitol Day, and keep in contact with lawmakers, I cannot thank you enough for your support and dedication to our industry. WBA cannot achieve our advocacy goals without you. 

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