Club for Growth
|Club for Growth|
|Founder(s)||Stephen Moore, Thomas L. "Dusty" Rhodes, and Richard Gilder|
|Mission||to promote public policies that encourage a high growth economy and a swift return to America's founding principles primarily through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, training and educational activity.|
|Chairman||Jackson T. Stephens|
|Slogan||"Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom"|
|Location||Washington, D.C., U.S.|
The Club for Growth is a fiscally conservative 501(c)4 organization active in the United States of America, with an agenda focused on cutting taxes and other economic issues. The Club has two political arms: an affiliated traditional Political Action Committee called the Club for Growth PAC and Club for Growth Action, an independent-expenditure only committee or Super-PAC. According to its website, the Club for Growth's policy goals include cutting income tax rates, repealing the estate tax, limited government and a Balanced Budget Amendment, entitlement reform, free trade, tort reform, school choice, and deregulation. The Club for Growth PAC endorses and raises money for fiscally conservative candidates. According to Politico, "The Club for Growth is the pre-eminent institution promoting Republican adherence to a free-market, free-trade, anti-regulation agenda."
The original Club for Growth was founded in 1999 by Stephen Moore, Thomas L. "Dusty" Rhodes, and Richard Gilder. Moore served as the first president of the original Club from 1999 until December 2004, when board members voted to remove Moore as president. Current Pennsylvania United States Senator Pat Toomey served as president from 2005 through 2009. The Club's current president is former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola.
The founder of the original Club for Growth, Stephen Moore, has said, "We want to be seen as the tax cut enforcer in the party."
In 2010, the Club’s political arms spent about $8.6 million directly on candidates and bundled another $6 million from Club members and directed those funds to candidates. In 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Club members donated at least $4 million and the Club’s political arms spent nearly $18 million on elections.
Unlike many other political action committees, the Club for Growth's PAC regularly involves itself in primary elections. The Club focuses more on open seats than on challenging sitting Republicans, but the Club has helped to unseat a number of incumbent Republicans. The Club for Growth has established a vetting process for potential candidates that involves one or more interviews, research on the race and the candidate's record, and a poll conducted to establish whether the candidate has a viable path to victory. Each election cycle, the Club's PAC endorses candidates and encourages donors to support the endorsed candidates. The Club is known for targeting "establishment" Republican candidates.
In 2003, the original Club for Growth strongly opposed the Medicare prescription drug benefit proposal: "As Steve Moore of the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group that opposes the bill, puts it, the Medicare issue could become a 'hand grenade that explodes in the Republicans' lap.'" In addition, "Stephen Moore, head of the conservative Club for Growth, said there could be a backlash against the bill once voters figure out what's actually in it. A poll of 800 likely voters conducted by the club found that respondents favored the legislation by 43 to 31 percent, but after learning more about the bill they opposed it 54 to 19 percent."
The original Club for Growth strongly supported the Bush tax cuts of 2003 and even ran television ads in the states of two Republicans who voiced their opposition to the tax cuts. According to the New York Times, "Last spring, [Club for Growth president Steve] Moore attacked two Republican senators who were resisting the latest tax cut: George Voinovich of Ohio and Olympia Snowe of Maine. He ran ads in each of their states in which he compared them with the French president, Jacques Chirac. That was too much for Karl Rove, the president's political enforcer, who called the ads 'stupid' and 'counterproductive.'"
The original Club for Growth created a congressional scorecard in 2005, the year that Pat Toomey became president. The Club’s first key vote alert was actually an amendment sponsored by a Democrat. Representative Earl Blumenauer offered an amendment to an agricultural appropriations bill that would have reduced the sugar program by 6 percent. The amendment failed, 146–280.
The original Club also fought hard in support of the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005, running print advertisements in local beltway publications. According to Roll Call, "Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is president of the Club for Growth, a CAFTA supporter, said his group continued running advertisements over the weekend, and early this week will be touching base with Members. 'We think we've been able to get our message across very well,' Toomey said, adding that he's cautiously optimistic that the contentious pact will pass. 'We think this is very, very important that we not backslide in trade.'"
The original Club opposed and scored against the 2005 highway bill. President Bush threatened to veto it, but ended up signing the bill. According to the Christian Science Monitor, " 'For fiscal conservatives, it's frustrating to watch,' says David Keating, executive director at the Club for Growth, a Washington group that advocates fiscal responsibility and lower taxes. 'He's beginning to lose all credibility with these veto threats.'"
According to the Washington Post, "The Club for Growth, a conservative group that funds like-minded candidates for Congress, has turned the highway legislation into a bumper sticker for the GOP's fiscal failings. 'Too many Congressional Republicans have veered away from the limited government agenda that got them elected to the majority in Congress. They have approved pork-barrel highway bills worse than the Democrats used to give us,' says one appeal to supporters."
The original Club's David Keating told the Chicago Sun Times, "'It is a pork-laden bill,' said David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, which argues that limited government and reduced taxes lead to a strong economy. 'If this was something the Democrats brought up when they were in power, the Republicans would have been screaming. These projects have nothing to do with transportation.'"
According to the Christian Science Monitor, "'This is a defining moment. The Republican Party came to power in 1995 by advocating limited government. But in the last four to five years, there has been no evidence that the Republican officials in the federal government have any remaining commitment to this vital principle,' said Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, at a press briefing with other conservative leaders on Capitol Hill last Thursday." During the debate on the highway bill, the Club supported an amendment by Tom Coburn that would defund the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.
In light of the Supreme Court's Kelo v. City of New London decision, the original Club scored an appropriations amendment offered by Scott Garrett that would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to enforce the Court's decision. The amendment passed, 231–189. The original Club for Growth PAC highlighted this vote when it targeted Joe Schwarz, a House Republican that the original Club's PAC helped defeat in 2006. According to The Hill, "'On a day-to-day basis, he's a fiscal liberal,' said David Keating, the original Club's executive director, referring specifically to Schwarz's rating by the National Taxpayers Union and the votes he cast against a bill to override a Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain and his support of labor-backed legislation to uphold prevailing wages in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."
In the spring of 2006, the Club opposed the 527 Reform Act, which curtailed spending by 527 organizations. The Club for Growth led a coalition of center-right groups that wrote a letter to members of Congress. The letter stated: "To suppress views of those we dislike will inevitably risk suppression of our own. We who oppose such a proposal want to continue to freely debate our ideas in the public arena. We want Americans to hear all sides—and to decide for themselves who's right. When you were sworn into office, you took an oath to 'support this Constitution.' We ask you to faithfully uphold that oath by rejecting H.R. 513, S. 1053, and any other bill that restricts political free speech." The House passed the 527 Reform Act by a margin of 218–209, but the Senate did not consider the legislation.
The Club for Growth supported various amendments offered by Jeff Flake that would cut funding for earmarks like "dairy education" and a "wine initiative." The Club also included the sponsorship of the card check bill in its scorecard. If lawmakers co-sponsored the bill, they were docked points on the Club’s rating system.
The Club for Growth issued a new scorecard in 2007 that highlighted how House members voted on several amendments that defunded earmarks. Sixteen congressmen scored a perfect 100% on the so-called "RePORK Card", voting for all 50 anti-pork amendments. They were all Republicans. Conversely, 105 congressmen (81 Democrats and 24 Republicans) scored a 0%, voting against every single amendment. In 2007, the Club also scored against House bills that increased the minimum wage, implemented card check, and sought caps on CEO pay. In the Senate, the Club scored against bills that increased the minimum wage, passage of the farm bill, and the SCHIP healthcare plan.
Also in 2007, the Club for Growth opposed protectionist policies against China. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had proposed a bill that would apply large tariffs on Chinese imports if that country didn't increase the value of its currency. In response, the Club sponsored a petition of 1,028 economists who stated their opposition to protectionist policies against China. The list of economists included Nobel Laureates Finn Kydland, Edward Prescott, Thomas Schelling, and Vernon Smith. The petition played off a similar petition that was also signed by 1,028 economists in 1930 that opposed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.
In 2008 and 2009, the Club for Growth opposed the $787 billion stimulus bill, Cash for Clunkers, cap and trade legislation, the Wall Street bailout, the auto bailout, the Affordable Care Act and the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
After Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008, Club President Pat Toomey penned an op-ed that included the results of a poll commissioned by the Club: "A poll commissioned by the Club for Growth in 12 swing congressional districts over the past weekend shows that the voters who made the difference in this election still prefer less government -- lower taxes, less spending and less regulation -- to Obama's economic liberalism. Turns out, Americans didn't vote for Dems because they support their redistributionist agenda, but because they are fed up with the GOPers in office. This was a classic 'throw the bums out' election, rather than an embrace of the policy views of those who will replace them."
In 2009, the Club produced another "RePORK Card". This time there were 22 House members with a 100% score: 1 Democrat and 21 Republicans. At the bottom, 211 House members received a 0% score: 202 Democrats and 9 Republicans.
The Club for Growth launched its Repeal It! campaign in 2010 in an attempt to help build public support for undoing the Affordable Care Act. In 2010, more than 400 federal lawmakers and candidates signed the Repeal It! pledge, including more than 40 of the incoming freshman class of congressmen and Senators.
The Club for Growth advocated the discharge petition, a proposal that would have forced a House vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. At the time, Keith Olbermann said: "The petition, which would need 218 signatures to force House Speaker Pelosi to put the repeal bill up for a vote, went largely ignored. As Talking Points Memo reports, on Monday it had only 30 signatures. That is until the right wing group Club For Growth e-mailed its members, explaining Mr. [Steve] King's discharge petition will be considered as a key vote on the club's annual Congressional scorecard. That scorecard is considered one of the gold standards of conservative rankings. That and the Spanish Inquisition. So by Tuesday, the petition had 22 more signatures."
The Club was involved in the debate over the debt ceiling that took place in August 2011. The Club endorsed and strongly supported "Cut Cap and Balance" and ran issue ads including the image of a Rhino (referring to R.I.N.O.s), urging Republicans to "show some spine" in negotiating on the debt ceiling.
The Club opposed the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank. The Club also took a strong position against Republicans voting for tax increases during the debate over the so-called "fiscal cliff". The Club opposed the "Plan B" tax increase proposed by John Boehner and also opposed the final deal.
In September 2013, Club for Growth made voting on the Continuing Appropriations Resolution a key vote, announcing on its website that it would be tracking how representatives voted on the bill and including the vote in their Congressional Scorecard. The group urged representatives to vote yes, particularly with defunding ObamaCare in mind.
Since 2005, the Club for Growth has produced an annual congressional scorecard. Each member of Congress receives a score on a scale of 0 to 100. The Club for Growth awards a Defender of Economic Freedom award to members of Congress who receive a 90 or above on the annual scorecard and have a lifetime score of at least 90.
The New York Times described the release of the Club for Growth's scorecard every year as “set upon by Republicans like the Oscar nominations list by Hollywood, with everyone dying to know who ranks where, especially in election years.”
Club for Growth PAC
In 2004, the original Club for Growth's PAC endorsed and supported U.S. Representative Pat Toomey, who challenged incumbent Senator Arlen Specter in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania. The PAC was reported to have collected contributions totaling over $934,000 for Toomey. It also spent $1 million on its own independent television advertising campaign on Toomey's behalf. Specter, who had the support of President Bush, the RNC, and Sen. Rick Santorum, defeated Toomey by a narrow margin of 51–49%. Afterwards, Toomey accepted the position as President of the Club for Growth which he served as until April 2009.
On September 19, 2005, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) filed suit against the original Club for Growth alleging violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act for failing to register as a political action committee in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 congressional elections. In September 2007, Citizens Club for Growth (the new name for the original Club for Growth) and the FEC agreed to settle the lawsuit. According to a joint filing by the FEC and Citizens Club for Growth to the United States District Court, Citizens Club for Growth contended "that it operated under the good faith belief that it had not triggered political committee status ... [and] [f]or the purposes of this settlement, and in order to avoid protracted litigation costs, without admitting or denying each specific basis for the [FEC's] conclusions," Citizens Club for Growth no longer contested the alleged violations and agreed to pay $350,000 in civil penalties.
According to the Associated Press, the settlement was one of "a series of actions by the FEC to penalize independent political groups that spent money to influence elections but did not register as political committees. The groups, called 527 organizations for the section of the IRS code under which they were formed, played a significant role in the 2004 congressional and presidential elections by raising unlimited amounts of money from labor groups, corporations and wealthy individuals." On June 25, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins issued an order stating that the FEC "is FORMALLY REPRIMANDED as a sanction for violating explicitly clear orders" (emphasis in original text) regarding confidentiality in the 2007 settlement agreement."
The original Club's PAC successfully supported the electoral bids of freshmen U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Bill Sali (R-ID), and Tim Walberg (R-MI). Congressional Quarterly wrote that Smith's views did not differ greatly from those of his primary election rivals, but the endorsement of the Club for Growth's PAC "gave him the imprimatur of the most fiscally conservative candidate, and it helped boost him to the top of the campaign fundraising competition."
The original Club's PAC endorsed four unsuccessful candidates for U.S. Senate, including Mike Bouchard in Michigan, Mike McGavick in Washington, Michael Steele in Maryland, and Stephen Laffey in Rhode Island.
The original Club's PAC supported Sharron Angle, who was defeated in the Republican primary in Nevada's 2nd congressional district. The original Club spent over $1 million in its support of Angle. The original Club's PAC additionally supported the losing primary campaigns of Phil Krinkie in Minnesota and Kevin Calvey in Oklahoma. The original Club's PAC also supported incumbent congressman Chris Chocola in his losing race in Indiana, John Gard's losing effort in Wisconsin, and Rick O'Donnell's losing effort in Colorado. The Club's PAC supported the successful reelection of Steve Chabot in Ohio.
The Club's PAC endorsed state senator Steve Buehrer in the special election for Ohio's 5th congressional district to replace the deceased Rep. Paul Gillmor. Buehrer however was defeated by Bob Latta, the son of former Rep. Del Latta, in the Republican primary in November 2007 by a 44% to 40% margin.
The Club's PAC endorsed Paul Jost, the chairman of the Virginia chapter of the Club for Growth, in the contest to replace deceased Rep. Jo Ann Davis in Virginia's 1st congressional district. In the nominating convention, Jost was defeated by state delegate Rob Wittman.
In Maryland's 1st congressional district, the Club's PAC endorsed state senator Andrew P. Harris against nine term incumbent Wayne Gilchrest. In the February 12 primary, Harris surged to a strong 44% to 32% victory. Gilchrest became the second incumbent Republican to be defeated by a candidate supported by the Club. The first was Rep. Joe Schwarz in Michigan in 2006. Harris was, however, unable to win the general election.
In Georgia's 10th congressional district, the Club's PAC endorsed incumbent Paul Broun who defeated state representative Barry Fleming 71% to 29% in the July 15, 2008 primary election. Broun's victory surprised many political observers.
In Arizona's 5th congressional district, the Club's PAC endorsed former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert, who narrowly defeated former candidate Susan Bitter-Smith by a margin of 29.9% to 28%; there were three other candidates. He did not win the general election.
During the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, the Club's PAC was critical of Mike Huckabee, attacking him as the "tax-increasing liberal governor of Arkansas". Huckabee, in turn, referred to the Club for Growth as the "Club for Greed".
The Club's PAC endorsed in the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district the Conservative Party of New York candidate, Doug Hoffman instead of Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava. With the Club pouring money into Hoffman's campaign, Scozzafava realized that she could not win and withdrew from the race the Sunday before the November 3 special election, endorsing the Democratic candidate Bill Owens. Owens won the election in a district where portions had not had a Democratic congressman since the 19th century.
Of the twenty-six general election candidates endorsed by Club for Growth in 2010, twenty won election. The following chart lists candidates who were endorsed by the Club for Growth PAC in the 2010 election cycle:
In 2012, the Club for Growth PAC endorsed eighteen candidates, nine of whom were victorious:
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