Jackson T. Stephens
David M. McIntosh
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.
"Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom"
2001 L Street NW S-600 Washington, DC 20036
"Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom"
Harlan Crow, Thomas L. Rhodes, Richard Gilder, Stephen Moore
FreedomWorks, American Conservative Union, Center for Responsive Politics, The Heritage Foundation, Citizens Against Governm
The Club for Growth is a 501(c)(4) conservative organization active in the United States, 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.
- Congressional Scorecard
- US presidential election
- US congressional elections
According to its website, the Club for Growth's policy goals include cutting income tax rates, repealing the estate tax, supporting 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 candidates who meet its standards for fiscal conservatism. 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 Club for Growth was founded in 1999 by Stephen Moore, Thomas L. Rhodes, and Richard Gilder. Moore served as the first president of the Club from 1999 until December 2004, when board members voted to remove Moore as president. Pennsylvania United States Senator Pat Toomey served as president from 2005 until his resignation in April 2009. Former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola succeeded Toomey. Chocola served as president through December 2014. He remains a member of the Club’s board. Former Indiana Congressman David McIntosh was named president in January 2015.
In 2010, the Club’s political arms spent about $8.6 million directly on candidates and bundled another $6 million from Club members, directing 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.
Founder Stephen Moore has said, "We want to be seen as the tax cut enforcer in the [Republican] party." Unlike many other political action committees, the Club for Growth's PAC regularly participates in funding candidates for primary elections. The Club focuses more on open seats than on challenging sitting Republicans, but it 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 chance for victory. Each election cycle, the Club's PAC endorses candidates and encourages donors to support the endorsed candidates. Promoting a more conservative agenda, the Club is known for targeting "establishment" Republican candidates.
In 2003, the original Club for Growth strongly opposed the Medicare prescription drug benefit proposal. The Club for Growth strongly supported the Bush tax cuts of 2003 and ran television ads against two Republicans who voiced 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. Karl Rove, President Bush's political advisor, stated that the ads were "stupid" and "counterproductive"."
In 2005 Pat Toomey became president and the Club for Growth created a congressional scorecard. The Club’s first key vote alert was 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 Club fought to support the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005, running print advertisements in local Beltway publications in the Washington, DC area. According to Roll Call, "Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), president of the Club for Growth, a CAFTA supporter, said his group continued running advertisements before the Congressional vote."
The Club opposed the 2005 highway bill. President Bush threatened to veto the bill but did sign it. The Christian Science Monitor quoted David Keating saying, "For fiscal conservatives, it's frustrating to watch...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.
Keating said to the Chicago Sun-Times, "It is a pork-laden bill." The Christian Science Monitor reported Toomey saying,
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.
During the debate on the highway bill, the Club supported an amendment by Tom Coburn that would defund the noted "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.
Following the Supreme Court's Kelo v. City of New London decision, the Club gained an appropriations amendment by Scott Garrett to prohibit funds in the bill from being used to enforce the Court's decision. The amendment passed, 231–189. The Club for Growth PAC highlighted this vote when it targeted Joe Schwarz, a House Republican who it helped defeat in 2006, claiming he was too liberal.
In the spring of 2006, the Club opposed the 527 Reform Act, which curtailed spending by such political organizations. It led a coalition of center-right groups in sending letters to Congress to support its position. 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 to cut earmarks in the budget, such as "dairy education" and a "wine initiative." The Club included assessment of sponsorship of the card check bill in its scorecard. If lawmakers co-sponsored the bill, they were docked points in the 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.
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 to apply large tariffs on Chinese imports if that country did not 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 urging Republicans to "show some spine" on maintaining 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 it track how representatives voted on the bill and make that part of their Congressional Scorecard. The group urged representatives to vote yes, particularly with defunding ObamaCare in mind.
The Club for Growth opposed the Ryan-Murray Budget deal. It also opposed the 2013 farm bill, which failed for the first time in the bill's 40-year history.
The Club's PAC spent $3.1 million ($2.4 million on independent expenditures and $700,000 on ads) or nearly half of the $7.8 million which it spent in 2014 on Chris McDaniel's effort to defeat Thad Cochran in the United States Senate Republican primary election in Mississippi, 2014.
From April through June 2015, the Club for Growth spent $1 million on television ads in nine congressional districts, urging the members of Congress in those districts to oppose re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank). Additional advertisements were announced in two districts in Utah, but were cancelled when the members declared their opposition to the Ex-Im Bank. In addition, the Club for Growth announced a key vote against re-authorization of the Ex-Im Bank.
The Club for Growth produced a series of policy papers on the positions taken by major Republican presidential candidates on the government’s role in economic growth. The eleven papers examined the records and remarks of the candidates on issues such as tax reform, government spending, entitlement reform, and free trade. The Club concluded that Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio were the most likely candidates to enact pro-growth policies if elected president.
In October 2015, the Club for Growth announced a key vote against the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, saying that it would include a $1.5 trillion in the debt ceiling and a $112 billion increase in federal spending.
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. In 2012, Paul Broun of Nebraska was awarded as a Defender of Economic Freedom. The New York Times described the Club's release of its annual scorecard as “set upon by Republicans like the Oscar nominations list by Hollywood, with everyone dying to know who ranks where, especially in election years.”
The Club's 2015 Congressional Scorecard was based on 29 House votes and 25 Senate votes. Mike Lee was the only U.S. Senator to receive a perfect score. Ben Sasse was ranked second among U.S. Senators, followed by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. On the U.S. House side, John Ratcliffe, Tim Huelskamp, and Scott DesJarlais received perfect scores.
In 2004, the 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%. Afterward Toomey accepted the position as President of the Club for Growth, where he served until April 2009.
On September 19, 2005, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) filed suit against the 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, the Citizens Club for Growth (the Club for Growth changed its name) and the FEC agreed to settle the lawsuit. According to their joint filing, Citizens Club for Growth said "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..., 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 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), who all were elected. 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 Club's PAC supported the reelection of Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), who won in a heavily fought race against former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez. The Club's PAC endorsed four candidates for U.S. Senate, including Mike Bouchard in Michigan, Mike McGavick in Washington, Michael Steele in Maryland, and Stephen Laffey in Rhode Island, who did not win.
Support by the Club's PAC was not a guarantee of success: its candidate Sharron Angle was defeated in the Republican primary in Nevada's 2nd congressional district, although it spent more than $1 million on her campaign. The Club's PAC also supported primary campaigns of Phil Krinkie in Minnesota and Kevin Calvey in Oklahoma, who lost, as did incumbent congressman Chris Chocola in Indiana, John Gard in Wisconsin, and Rick O'Donnell in Colorado.
The Club's PAC supported the 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 30% 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 26 general election candidates endorsed by Club for Growth in 2010, 20 won election. The following chart lists candidates endorsed by the Club:
In 2012, the Club for Growth PAC endorsed eighteen candidates, nine of whom were victorious:
U.S. presidential election
With regard to the 2016 Republican presidential primary candidates, the Club for Growth was critical of Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump. In August 2015, Club for Growth president David McIntosh said that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz are “the real deal candidates, the gold standard of the race," and that while questions remained, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker showed some pro-growth stances.
In August 2015, the Club for Growth PAC announced it would formally support presidential candidates for the first time, saying the group would bundle donations for Cruz, Rubio, Walker, Bush, and Paul. Club for Growth president David McIntosh said "Five candidates are at the forefront of the Republican presidential field on issues of economic freedom, and the Club for Growth PAC is standing with them to help them stand out from the rest." In October 2015, McIntosh said Cruz and Rubio were "the gold standard" of Republican presidential candidates.
The Club for Growth’s Super PAC, Club for Growth Action, was particularly critical of Trump's candidacy, announcing a $1 million Iowa advertising buy against his campaign in September 2015. The Club for Growth Action was the first third-party group to spend significant sums against Donald Trump. The Club for Growth announced a $1.5 million advertising buy in Florida in March 2016. The group's advertisements highlighted Trump's support for liberal policies, such as a single-payer health insurance system and tax increases.
In March 2016, Politico reported that the Club for Growth PAC planned to deny congressional endorsements to any candidates who endorsed Donald Trump's presidential bid before the nomination was actually clinched. The Club’s PAC noted that the warning did not apply to those who endorsed Trump after the May 3, 2016 Indiana primary. Also in March 2016, the Club for Growth PAC endorsed Ted Cruz for president. The Club for Growth PAC had never previously endorsed in a presidential race. According to Club for Growth head David McIntosh, “This year is different because there is a vast gulf between the two leading Republican candidates on matters of economic liberty. Their records make clear that Ted Cruz is a consistent conservative who will fight to shrink the federal footprint, while Donald Trump would seek to remake government in his desired image."
U.S. congressional elections
In North Carolina's 2nd congressional district, Club for Growth Action opposed incumbent Renee Ellmers. She was defeated in the primary.
The Club for Growth PAC has endorsed Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel in his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in the United States Senate election in Ohio, 2018.