|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd district
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Tim Roemer|
|Succeeded by||Joe Donnelly|
|Born||Joseph Christopher Chocola
February 24, 1962
|Alma mater||Hillsdale College, Thomas M. Cooley Law School|
|Occupation||banking executive, agribusiness executive, attorney|
Joseph Christopher "Chris" Chocola (born February 24, 1962) is an American businessman and politician who is the current president of the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative 501(c)4 organization. A member of the Republican Party, Chocola is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Indiana's 2nd congressional district from 2003 to 2007.
In 2002, Chocola ran for the U.S. House, defeating former Democratic congresswoman Jill Long Thompson. Chocola was a member of the Agriculture, Small Business, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means committees of the House of Representatives. He defeated former Mishawaka Marian School Board President Joe Donnelly in 2004, and lost in a rematch in 2006.
Early life, education, and career
Chocola was born in Jackson, Michigan. He grew up in Michigan, graduating from Williamston High School in 1980. He graduated in 1984 from Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Michigan, with a double major in business administration and political economy. While at Hillsdale College he joined the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. After graduation, he went to work at Society National Bank, now known as KeyBank, which had recruited him into its management program in Cleveland. When he left to go to law school, he was a foreign exchange trader for the bank.
Chocola attended law school classes at night at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing, Michigan, while working as a credit manager for his family's business, Chocola Cleaning Materials. He graduated in 1988.
In 1988, Chocola was hired as corporate counsel by CTB International in Milford, Indiana, a manufacturer of products for the poultry, egg, swine, and grain production industries, which his grandfather, Howard Brembeck, had founded. He initially managed all the legal aspects of the business as corporate counsel. He then held various management positions until he was named CEO in 1994. In April 1999, he left the CEO position to become chairman of the board.
In August 2002, CTB International was sold to Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the investment firm of billionaire Warren Buffett. The Chocola family (Chris, his parents, and other relatives) received 55% of the $140 million paid to shareholders of the company.
In the 2000 election, Chocola made an unsuccessful bid for Congress, losing to incumbent Democrat Timothy J. Roemer by a 52-47 margin. In that campaign, Chocola spent more than $1 million, including $465,000 of his own money.
In the October 8, 2000, edition of the Elkhart Truth, an Elkhart, Indiana newspaper, Chocola was quoted as saying that "Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire Social Security system privatized. It's not a 'risky scheme'." In late October, after Roemer had featured that statement in political ads, Chocola said, "There is no one proposing, including me, a plan of total privatization." The newspaper, saying Chocola had made his statement in meeting its editorial board, refused to retract the story. Roemer refused to stop running the ad despite Chocola's contention that the quotation was taken out of context.
Roemer retired after his 2001–2003 term. In 2002, Chocola ran again for the open seat. In November, he defeated former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson by a 51-46 margin, in a race that included campaign appearances by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other top Republicans, to assist his bid.
In 2004, Chocola defeated Democrat Joe Donnelly by a 54-45 margin, in an election where Bush received 56 percent of the district's vote. In that race, Chocola outspent Donnelly $1.4 million to $700,000. Chocola was assisted by a fundraising visit from Vice President Dick Cheney during the campaign.
In the Republican primary on May 2, 2006, Chocola faced Tony Zirkle, an attorney, Navy veteran, and frequent candidate, whom he had defeated in 2004. Chocola won 70% to 30%. Zirkle, who said he was "willing to debate the idea of returning the guillotine and lynch mob for those who prey on children under the age of 12", was unable to get Chocola to debate him on that or any other subject.
In the 2006 campaign cycle Chocola had raised about $3.2 million.
In mid-August, in a report on National Republican Congressional Committee planned spending, the Associated Press reported that "the GOP has not reserved advertising time to aid Rep. Chris Chocola in Indiana even though Democrats plan to spend at least $700,000 to win the district. House Republicans have told Chocola that he must fend for himself, given his personal wealth and his ability to raise large amounts of money."
Polls and ratings
A poll released in mid-June by the Donnelly campaign showed Donnelly leading 48% to 38% with 14% undecided. The campaign did not release all of the poll findings. A poll released six days later, taken by the South Bend Tribune, showed the race to be at the margin of error with Donnelly at 46% and Chocola at 41%. The telephone poll interviewed 400 likely voters who were asked who they would vote for "if the election were held now".
On August 16, the Cook Political Report changed the rating for the race from "Lean Republican" to "Toss-Up", saying "Despite a significant fundraising advantage over Democrat Joe Donnelly, which has helped fuel a barrage of negative attack ads, incumbent GOP Rep. Chris Chocola looks more like an underdog than the frontrunner." Also in August 2006, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, a Web site run by the University of Virginia Center for Politics, added the race to their "Ferocious Forty" list of the 40 most competitive House races in the nation.
On November 7, 2006, Chocola lost his congressional seat to Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly, whom Chocola had defeated in 2004. The final tally showed Chocola losing by a 54-46 margin, almost an identical reversal of his fortunes in 2004. The election had a much lower turnout than the previous campaign, and the difference appeared to come in St. Joseph County. Historically a Democratic stronghold, Chocola lost it by only a few hundred votes while cruising to victory in 2004. In 2006, however, Donnelly won the county by nearly 14,000 votes, garnering 58% of the vote in what is by far the most populous county of the district.
Actions as Representative
According to the profile by the Associated Press, "Chocola is a strong supporter of President Bush". The two do differ on some positions, such as illegal immigration. Chocola has supported (against the President's position) the "tough enforcement first" House version of changes in immigration law, in opposition to the President's calls for a guest worker program.
In January 2006, Chocola said that great strides were being made in transitioning Iraq from military coalition to police control. He said it was too early to predict when the job will be done.
- Chocola was a cosponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2003 and voted for that Amendment when it came to the floor in 2004. He again was a cosponsor of the Marriage Protection Amendment in 2006 (H.J. Res. 88) and voted for the amendment on July 18, 2006.
- He voted in 2005 for an amendment to the Constitution preventing the desecration of the American flag.
- Voted for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in July 2006, which restricts credit card companies from processing payment towards Internet gambling companies.
- Voted for the Pledge Protection Act in mid-July 2006, which would prevent federal courts from ruling on cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Voted against overriding President George W. Bush's veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act in July 2006. The bill would have modified restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and allowed for federal funding of the research.
Fiscal and economic issues
- Introduced a bill that would place currency manipulation tariffs on China. He later denounced this bill when he became president of the Club for Growth.
- Voted against increasing the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program by $1 billion in March 2006.
- Voted for the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act in May 2006, which extended tax cuts set to expire over the next seven (7) years.
- Voted for the Permanent Estate Tax Relief Act in June 2006. The bill permanently exempted personal estates of less than $5 million per spouse from estate taxes, and lowered the tax rate on larger estates.
- In the summer of 2006, voted for a bill that would allow private companies to drill for oil in ANWR.
- One of two cosponsors of HELPS Retirees Act (H.R. 2177), also known as the Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety Retirees Act of 2005, which enables retired public safety officers to designate up to $5,000 per year from governmental pension or deferred compensation funds for health care premiums on a pre-tax basis. This earned Chocola an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters, one of his only endorsements from organized labor.
- As a result of redistricting after the 2000 Census, the boundaries of the 2nd district were redrawn to replace much of what had been the 3rd district and the 5th district. Tim Roemer had been the representative from the 3rd district and Steve Buyer of the 5th district in 2003.
- Chocola Elected President of the Club
- "Chocola wins key Indiana district". CNN. November 5, 2002. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Wong, Scott. "Sessions challenges right on China." POLITICO, 10 October 2011.
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Biography at Ballotpedia
- Biography at NNDB
- Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart
- Congressional profile at GovTrack
- Congressional profile at OpenCongress
- Financial information (federal office) at OpenSecrets.org
- Issue positions and quotes at On the Issues
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- Voting record at The Washington Post
- Appearances on C-SPAN programs
- Appearances at the Internet Movie Database
- Collected news and commentary at Bloomberg News
- Collected news and commentary at The Christian Science Monitor
- Collected news and commentary at Politico
- Collected news and commentary at The Washington Times
- Chris Chocola, 100 People to Watch This Fall, The Hill, August 7, 2013
- Campaign finance at Influence Explorer
- Column archive at Redstate.com
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district
|President of the Club for Growth
2009 – present