Operation Choke Point: US Consumer Coalition Scoffs as Credit Union Denies Feds Forced It to Shut Down Gun Dealer’s Bank Account

Reuters/Jim Young
Reuters/Jim Young

The President of Heritage Credit Union is denying that the National Credit Union Administration forced it to shut down a Wisconsin gun dealer’s bank account.

“The NCUA did not force us to shut down the bank account of Hawkins Guns, LLC,” Anita Rauch, CEO and President of the Madison, Wisconsin based Heritage Credit Union told Breitbart News in an email.

“We closed it because we were not capable of monitoring at the level required by regulation. Increased monitoring is required for all cash intensive businesses, regardless of the nature of the business,” Rauch said.

“As relayed to Mr. Schuetz in November, we began taking steps in August, 2014 to implement the necessary monitoring software. We will be ready to serve cash intensive businesses by the end of January, 2015,” she claimed.

“The issue ultimately comes down to the regulation itself and not the regulator or financial institutions. The regulator is required to enforce the regulation and we are required to comply with the regulation,” Rauch concluded.

But Brian Wise, senior adviser to the United States Consumer Coalition, says the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the National Credit Union Administration and the Obama administration’s Operation Choke Point.

“This is not about software, or even mitigating risk,” Wise told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

“Operation Choke Point is about using the power of the executive branch of government to destroy businesses that this administration and its allies have been trying to destroy for decades through more legitimate, democratic means,” Wise said.

“They failed,” Wise added, “because the American people want access to guns, ammunition, short-term loans, and tobacco products and now they believe that the only way to succeed in their political goal is to take away their banks. We won’t let them do that.”

Wise adds that Heritage Credit Union is not the bad guy.

“No one can blame the credit union for trying to avoid the almost certain retaliation they will receive from the NCUA and other federal regulators. We hope that the light that we have shown on the program will transfer some of that pressure away from the credit union and onto the Obama Administration who insists on defending and continuing this dangerous program,” Wise said.

But Wise noted that that Heritage Credit Union’s explanation doesn’t hold water:

I understand the credit union’s rapid backtrack and denial of the things that were on the recordings. After all, the reason Operation Choke Point has been so successful in shutting down bank accounts is that it relies on intimidation of bank employees by federal regulators. Bank employees are threatened by federal regulators if they disclose any of the details of their examinations, which happened here. It appears that the credit union is trying to do damage control but they cannot erase those recordings, and they cannot take back the truth that the recordings contain.

The “monitoring software” excuse offered by the credit union is also incorrect, Wise told Breitbart News.

“Operation Choke Point is not fixed with a ‘software upgrade.’ If all it took to stop this unconstitutional program was a new set of software, the ABA, ICBA, and other trade associations that represent the banking industry probably would have encouraged their members to do that over a year ago,” Wise said.

Like Heritage Credit Union, the National Credit Union Administration is also dodging responsibility. But Wise and the United States Consumer Coalition are having none of it.

“NCUA cannot comment on specifics of any matter involving credit union supervision,” National Credit Union Administration spokesperson John Fairbanks told the Daily Caller late Tuesday after Breitbart News first broke the story earlier in the day.

“NCUA does not have a policy specific to any business, nor do we instruct a credit union about what individuals or businesses it can serve,” Fairbanks said. “The decision to open, close or decline an individual or business account generally lies with the credit union. As the provider of insurance coverage for the accounts of nearly 100 million members in 6,500 credit unions, NCUA requires all those credit unions to evaluate risks posed by accounts and maintain the necessary capacity to effectively manage those risks.”

Mike Schuetz’s story has caught the attention of several powerful members of Congress, including the Republican member who represents his Wisconsin district, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI).

Duffy has recently been named Chairman of the powerful Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Financial Services Committee.

Sources tell Breitbart News that Duffy’s subcommittee is expected to hold hearings on Operation Choke Point in early February. The fallout from the program is likely to be felt by both political parties this election cycle.

“This program will ultimately demonstrate a divide in the Democratic Party,” Brian Wise of the United States Consumer Coalition’s told Breitbart News. “After the news came out about the recordings, I had numerous Members of Congress personally call me, including a Democrat, and thank us for the work we are doing to expose this program.”

“Many Democrats are against this program,” Wise said, “but are also being intimidated not to speak out. In fact, I bet if someone were to ask Hillary Clinton about her position on this, she would be against Operation Choke Point. That would be in stark contrast to Elizabeth Warren, who has been a champion for using any means necessary to destroy these businesses and has even written articles supporting Operation Choke Point.”