Club for Growth
Club for Growth is a right-wing political group established in 1999 by Stephen Moore that endorses and raises money for candidates. According to a February 22, 2011 article by John Nichols in The Nation, the Washington D.C. based Club for Growth is "an organization funded by extremely wealthy conservatives to carry out their budget-stripping goals," and that "has been a key player in Republican Governor Scott Walker's move to take out the state's organized workers." Nichols writes that the Club for Growth is part of a "national strategy" to get "newly elected Republican governors" to destroy labor and unions. R.J. Johnson, who served as a political strategist for Walker's campaign, is a key adviser to the Club for Growth. Johnson has refused to disclose where the Club for Growth gets its funding. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune in a February 26, 2011 editorial described the Club for Growth as an "ultra-rich special interest itself." As of March 15, 2020, OpenSecrets estimates that Club for Growth has spent $33.6 million influencing federal elections.
See the Wisconsin Club for Growth entry for information about the group involved in Wisconsin's John Doe investigation
Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.
- 1 Organization and Strategy
- 2 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 3 Recent Activities
- 3.1 Bundling of Insufficiently Reported Campaign Cash
- 3.2 2015-2016 Spending in Wisconsin and Other Senate Races
- 3.3 2011-2012 Spending to Defend Walker and in Recall Races
- 3.4 2011-2012 Arizona Senate Races
- 3.5 2011-2012 Wisconsin Senate Races
- 3.6 2011-2012 Texas Senate Races
- 3.7 2012 Attacks on Dick Lugar and Other Moderate Republicans
- 4 Prior Activities
- 5 History and Background
- 6 Core Financials
- 7 Personnel
- 8 Contact Information
- 9 Articles and References
Organization and Strategy
Club for Growth conducts its activities through its 527 Political Action Committee (deemed a "super PAC" by the Washington Post), and its 501(c)(4) Club for Growth Action committee, focusing on issues including reducing the income tax, budget reform, a flat tax, tort reform, school choice and deregulation. At the outset of the 2010 midterm election, Club for Growth indicated that it intended to take advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and raise unlimited funds from corporations and other deep-pocket donors. The Club accomplishes its mission by raising money through its political action committee and donating it to candidates that adhere to this vision. It also solidifies its clout through independent expenditures through a separate 527 committee. The Club’s PAC also acts as a conduit for federal candidates by accepting and transmitting earmarked contributions from the club’s many members to federal candidates.
Despite being allowed to raise unlimited funds, Club for Growth's 501(c)(4) wing is not required to disclose its donors. Club for Growth's PAC, Club for Growth Action, is supported by ultra-rich right-wing donors like Peter Thiel (their largest donor), leverage-buyout specialist John Childs and New Jersey investor Virginia James, who have both given the Club $1 million donations.
Club for Growth was a recipient of funding from the Koch network in 2012 (see graphic at right).
The group supports far-right Republican candidates, spending money to not only oppose Democrats, but also moderate Republicans they term "RINOs" (an acronym for Republican In Name Only). Some within the Republican party dislike the Club; Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate (and current FOX News host), says the group should be called the "Club for Greed."
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
Club for Growth was a "Director's"-level sponsor of ALEC's 2016 Annual Conference.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Bundling of Insufficiently Reported Campaign Cash
Freshman Representative Ross Spano (R-FL15) reportedly had more than $75,000 in contributions flagged by an FEC analyst for as a result of a failure properly disclose campaign money from Club for Growth. According to Politico, the money in question was "bundled by Club for Growth." Those contributions were not itemized by donors who gave more than $200 as required by US federal law. A Spano spokesperson told Politico that the Club for Growth reporting “appears to be a clerical error that can be easily fixed.” This is not the first potential campaign finance violation for the Representative, "nearly one-third of the $881,321 brought in his campaign is under some form of scrutiny."
"Bundling" refers to the process of collecting contributions of other donors and then delivering them to a campaign. Often these contributions are a stack of checks bound together, hence the term "bundling." According to RollCall the process is legal, "but carries risks." Club for Growth, in a 2014 memo, wrote that it's bundling operation plays "a critical role in the election" and that recipients benefit "handsomely from Club bundling."
2015-2016 Spending in Wisconsin and Other Senate Races
In August 2015 Club for Growth announced that it planned to spend $2.5 million to defeat Russ Feingold (D-WI), the former U.S. Senator who is running against current Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in the 2016 election. Club for Growth president David McIntosh said that his organization and its PACs aimed to contribute $1.5 million to Johnson's campaign and would "spend 'north of $1 million' on statewide advertisements either supporting his candidacy or, more likely, attacking Feingold," according to USA Today, which calculated that amount to be five times what Club for Growth spent when Johnson ran against Feingold in 2010. The most recent poll at that time had Feingold leading Johnson by 16 points.
Club for Growth also planned to be involved in Senate races in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Florida.
2011-2012 Spending to Defend Walker and in Recall Races
Within days of Scott Walker introducing the budget repair bill to end collective bargaining in Wisconsin on February 11, 2011 Wisconsin Club for Growth was up on TV with ads defending the measure like this one posted on You Tube February 14, 2011. Or this one posted on YouTube February 22, 2011. RJ Reynolds was named Scott Walker's "top political adviser" in his 2013 book "Undaunted," at the same time that he was a long time political adviser to Club for Growth.
On February 18, 2011, Wisconsin State Representative Gordon Hintz (D-54th) stated in floor debate that he heard a radio ad paid for by the Club for Growth prior to the budget repair bill even being distributed to members for vote. This marked the beginning of the Club for Growth's involvement into state level anti-union activities.
Club for Growth ran ads throughout the 15 Wisconsin recalls that took place between 2011-2012s, arguing in favor of Walker's anti-union agenda and against the recall process itself. In total, the Club spent at least $10 million influencing the recalls, though the exact number is not known. This money was mostly spent in the summer and fall of 2011, in order to influence the Senate recalls.
2011-2012 Arizona Senate Races
Club for Growth endorsed Jeff Flake for the Arizona Senate Primary over his self-financed opponent Will Cardon. Club for Growth spent at least $1 million influencing the GOP Senate primary, $600,000 through their PAC and another $400,000 through their nonprofit arm. Club for Growth's ads began in June, and attacked Cardon for being "an impostor" and not a true conservative. Other ads attacked him for being a member of the (purportedly liberal) Urban Land Institute. With the Club for Growth's help, Jeff Flake was able to defeat his challenger.
2011-2012 Wisconsin Senate Races
In addition to opposing the Walker Recall, the Club for Growth also ran ads against contenders for Wisconsin's open Senate seat, slated to be filled in the 2012 election cycle. The club's action committee ran ads opposing former Governor Tommy Thompson, and billionaire hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, both Republicans. The Club announced their official endorsement for Mark Neumann in July of 2012. Their ad buy against both Thompson and Hovde cost about $700,000.  Neumann eventually lost to Thompson, who entered the Senate race against then-Madison Representative Tammy Baldwin.
2011-2012 Texas Senate Races
The 2012 Senate Republican Primary in Texas was one of the Club's largest investments, the Club spent over $5 million in support of Ted Cruz, in order to unseat moderate Republican David Dewhurst. Club for Growth's ads attacked Dewhurst for being recognized as a moderate by every major newspaper in Texas, and praised Cruz for being a true conservative.
2012 Attacks on Dick Lugar and Other Moderate Republicans
The Club for Growth has made a national strategy of attacking moderate state-level republicans from the Right. Their two biggest success stories in 2012 were Former Indiana Senator Dick Lugar and Nebraska Attorney General Jim Bruning. The Club spent about $2.2 million to unseat Lugar in favor of Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Club for Growth spent about $700,000 to unseat Bruning, and succeeded, though their preferred candidate finished in 3rd place.
2010 Midterm Elections
Club for Growth invested in a variety of campaigns in the 2010 midterm election season. The group has also established local spinoff political groups so their anonymous donors can direct their funds towards specific races. For example, Club for Growth has established a Wisconsin chapter to support Republican Congressional and Gubernatorial candidates. See 2010 expenditures below for more.
"Privatize Social Security? Hell Yeah!"
One of the Club's campaigns focuses on privatizing Social Security, an issue that alienates many Republicans. Democrats have tried to capitalize on the issue. Club For Growth spent $6 million in the 2010 midterm elections, calling for Social Security privatization. Their pitch for privatizing Social Security was entitled "Social Security Privatization? Hell Yeah!" 
2006 Republican primaries
On September 14, Toomey sent out a club bulletin summing up its activities in the Republican primaries:
"...the Club's PAC racked up 9 wins against just 4 losses. It's a record we're proud of, especially given that our endorsed candidates competed in races with nearly 50 major opponents. In most cases our candidate was the underdog, as in yesterday's Rhode Island race. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Club's PAC "had an extremely successful run so far this cycle."
"And the Club's PAC scored its first-ever knockout of an incumbent when Tim Walberg defeated Rep. Joe Schwarz in the Michigan Republican primary. We accomplished something vitally important in Rhode Island despite the vote tally.
"Politicians are risk-adverse [sic]. Every Republican in Congress knows what we did in Rhode Island. They realize that Club members donated an incredible $725,000 to Chafee's challenger. They know that the Club for Growth PAC spent an additional $515,000, mostly on TV ads, and took a challenger from being down 2 to 1 in the polls to the edge of an upset. As senators cast their votes on key bills, wavering Republicans will have to wonder if they could withstand the same punishment.
"National Review wrote that Laffey's "loss was by no means an exercise in futility: Sometimes it's better to fight and lose than not to fight at all. Two years ago, Pat Toomey nearly defeated Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's GOP primary. Yesterday, Laffey gave Chafee a genuine scare. Both Toomey and Laffey received crucial support from the Club for Growth [PAC]. Senators are a notoriously risk-averse crowd. And now, for the second election cycle in a row, Republican senators have received a sharp reminder that if they behave too much like liberals, they may not be senators for long."
The breakdown of club member support for the nine candidates according to the group's website was as follows:
- Steve Laffey (RI)--no financial information listed.
- Sharron Angle (NV)--"Club members contributed over $605,000..."
- Tim Walberg (MICH)--won over the incumbent with over $600,000 in donations from club members
- Doug Lamborn (CO)--won with over $200,000.
- Kevin Calvey (OK)--came in fourth after over $249,000. 
- Phil Krinkie (MN)-- withdrew, as pledged, when he didn't receive the party's endorsement. Received over $154,000.
- Jim Jordon (OH)--won and received over $92,000.
- Henry Cueller (TX)--won and received over $170,000
- John Campbell (CA)--won in 2005 and received over $118,000.
2005 FEC Lawsuit
In September 2005, the Federal Election Commission filed a lawsuit "against the Club for Growth, the first case of its kind to arise from high-dollar fundraising during the 2004 elections. The pro-Republican group spent at least $21 million in the 2003-2004 election cycle. ... The FEC contends the club spent enough in federal races to require it to file with the commission as a political committee and to follow contribution and spending limits. It wants the court to fine the group and order it to comply with campaign finance rules."
In September, 2007 the Club for Growth agreed to pay $350,000 in civil penalties and criticized the FEC for the lawsuit.
History and Background
According to the Washington Post, Club for Growth "grew out of the Political Club for Growth," a group that had been founded by stockbroker Richard Gilder. Gilder founded Gilder Gagnon Howe & Company, a private investment fund, in the 1960s, and had also invested in the Texas Rangers in the 1970s alongside George W. Bush. With the Political Club for Growth, Gilder "hosted private fundraising salons at his Manhattan brokerage firm in the 1980s and 1990s for GOP stalwarts such as Newt Gingrich and Steve Forbes." The group included around two dozen businessmen who "interviewed candidates for office, testing their conservative bona fides on fiscal issues and rewarding acceptable political hopefuls with a pocketful of checks," according to Washington Monthly. The New York Observer described the Political Club for Growth as "a group of supply-side Wall Street Republicans that started to funnel money in a targeted fashion to Washington" and that "has used contributions to get elected officials to adopt specific legislation." Gilder's pet issues included lowering income taxes, privatizing Social Security, and using voucher programs to increase the number of charter schools around the country.
Stephen Moore had been involved in the Political Club for Growth from its beginning, but by the 1990s wanted to take on a leadership role in order to turn the group into a more powerful influence in Washington. At the time, Moore was a fellow at the Cato Institute. Club for Growth was "founded in 1999 by Moore (now a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board); National Review president Dusty Rhodes; Cato Institute president Ed Crane; stockbroker Richard Gilder; and Larry Kudlow, a former Reagan adviser and co-host of CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer," and other like-minded people. (Former president Pat Toomey is now the junior senator representing Pennsylvania).
The new Club for Growth immediately became more directly involved in primary campaign spending, attacking "politicians who did not share their fiscal policy of tax cuts, balanced budgets, and more tax cuts." According to Washington Monthly, "Moore's team was more responsible than any other group for the Republican purge of party moderates that [drove] much of GOP politics during the Bush years." $2.4 million in campaign contributions from the Club for Growth helped elect 10 new Republicans to Congress in 2000. "The Club for Growth has grown six-fold since the 2000 election cycle and the Club and its members raised or donated over $10 million to help elect seventeen new Members of Congress in the 2002 election cycle."
In the run up to the 2004 Democratic caucuses in Iowa, the PAC arm of Club for Growth ran advertisments attacking Presidential candidate Howard Dean. The advertisements characterized Howard Dean and his supporters as a "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show."
Not even George Walker Bush as President was immune from Club for Growth criticism. After Bush unveiled new programs costing billions of dollars in the 2004 State of the Union Address, then-Club president Stephen Moore criticized George Walker Bush as a "big government Republican."
"The group, which in the past has challenged moderate Republicans it considers big spenders, is running television spots targeting three GOP lawmakers who are undecided about private accounts: Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Rep. Joe Schwarz of Michigan and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of New York," the Houston Chronicle reports. "The Club also plans to hire a full-time lobbyist to promote the private account plan on Capitol Hill."
Club for Growth PAC Endorsed Candidates
- Ross Spano (FL-15)
- Ron Johnson (WI-Sen)
- Jeff Flake (AZ-Sen)
- Mark Neumann (WI-Gov)
- David Harmer (CA-11)
- Keith Rothfus (PA-04)
- Andy Harris (MD-01)
- Nan Hayworth (NY-19)
- Jesse Kelly (AZ-08)
- David Schweikert (AZ-05)
- Joe Miller (AK-Sen)
- Tim Griffin (AR-02)
- Todd Young (IN-09)
- Stephen Fincher (TN-08)
- Ken Buck (CO-Sen)
- Mick Mulvaney (SC-05)
- Rand Paul (KY-Sen)
- Ron Johnson (WI-Sen)
- Sharron Angle (NV-Sen)
- Justin Amash (MI-03)
- Mike Pompeo (KS-04)
- Tim Huelskamp (KS-01)
- Tim Scott (SC-01)
- Jeff Duncan (SC-03)
- Tom Graves (GA-09)
- Pat Toomey (PA-Sen)
- Marco Rubio (FL-Sen)
- Mike Lee (UT-Sen)
- Jim DeMint (SC-Sen)
- Tom Coburn (OK-Sen)
As of September 2010:
Race Candidate Party Support/Oppose Expenditures
GA-9 Tom Graves R Support $9,621.00 GA-9 Lee Hawkins R Oppose $114,131.00 KS-1 James A. Barnett R Oppose $110,662.00 KY-Senate Rand Paul R Support $11,115.00 MI-3 Justin Amash R Support $7,908.00 MI-3 Bill Hardiman R Oppose $125,727.00 NV-Senate Sharron E. Angle R Support $247,218.00 NV-Senate Sue Lowden R Oppose $238,458.00 NY-23 Doug Hoffman 3 Support $340,450.00 NY-23 Bill Owens D Oppose $137,818.00 NY-23 Dierdre Scozzafava R Oppose $167,016.00 OK-5 Kevin Calvey R Support $160,163.00 PA-Senate Pat Toomey R Support $12,639.00 PA-Senate Arlen Specter D Oppose $159.00 SC-1 Tim Scott R Support $54,233.00 SC-1 Paul Thurmond R Oppose $52,327.00 SC-3 Jeff Duncan R Support $220,234.00 TN-3 Robin Smith R Support $51,865.00 TN-3 Charles Fleischmann R Oppose $58,541.00 UT-Senate Robert F. Bennett R Oppose $186,309.00 WI-Senate Ron Johnson R Support $12,162.00
Club for Growth Action Expenditures
As of September 2010:
Race Candidate Party Support/Oppose Expenditures
CO-Senate Ken Buck (R) Support $12,500.00 CO-Senate Michael F. Bennet (D) Oppose $299,739.00 FL-Senate Marco Rubio (R) Support $35,366.00 FL-Senate Kendrick B. Meek (D) Oppose $1,572.00 FL-Senate Charlie Crist (I) Oppose $280,151.00 KY-Senate Rand Paul (R) Support $12,500.00 NV-Senate Sharron E. Angle (R) Support $35,366.00 NV-Senate Harry Reid (D) Oppose $211,894.00 PA-Senate Pat Toomey (R) Support $15,626.00 PA-Senate Joe Sestak, Jr (D) Oppose $770,317.00 WI-Senate Russ Feingold (D) Oppose $183,205.00 WI-Senate Ron Johnson (R) Support $14,866.00
- Total revenue: $6,767,058
- Total expenses: $7,277,249
- Net assets: $333,303
- Total revenue: $8,418,561
- Total expenses: $9,778,725
- Net assets: $843,494
- Total revenue: $8,518,914
- Total expenses: $8,877,322
- Net assets: $2,203,658
- Total revenue: $5,358,627
- Total expenses: $7,135,848
- Net assets: $2,562,066
Board of Directors
As of March 2020:
- Virginia James, Chairman
- Ken Blackwell
- Terry Considine
- Frayda Levin
- David McIntosh
- Howard Rich
- Lee Tenzer
The group was formerly led by Pat Toomey.
- Jerry Hayden
- Chris Chocola
- Jackson T. Stephens, Jr.
- Thomas L. Rhodes - Chair
- Richard Gilder - Chairman emeritus
As of March 2020
- David McIntosh, President
- Marissa Obradovich, Director of Development
- Sean Brislin, Deputy Finance Director
- Benjamin Decatur, Digital Communications Associate
- Andrew Follett, Senior Research Analyst
- Stacey French, Digital Director
- Joe Kildea, Vice President Communications
- Jordan Kittleson, Field Director
- Glyn McKay, Field Director
- Scott Parkinson, Vice President of Government
- Robert Pipkin Field Director
- John Richardson, Executive Vice President and COO
- Adam Rozansky, Chief Financial Officer
- Tom Schultz Vice President Campaigns
- James Selvey, Research Analyst
- Debbie Tyler, Executive Assistant
- Chris Vari, Research Director
- Stefanie Williams, Deputy Director of Development
- Madison Faupel, Development Associate
- Virginia Galligan, Finance Director and Advisor
- Chuck Pike, Executive Vice President
- Andrew Roth Vice President, Goverment Affairs
- Rachael Slobodien, Communications Director
- Patrick Toomey, President
- Nachama Soloveichik, Communications Director
- Stacie Smith, Development Assistant
- Oliver Schwab, Membership Assistant
- Chris Chocola, President and CEO
- David Keating, Executive Director
- Andrew Roth, Vice President, Director of Government Affairs
- Erika Sather, Vice President, Development
- Mike Connolly, Communications Director
- Stacy French, Office Administrator
- Maria Gullo, Senior Development Associate
- Alyssa Bonk, Development Assistant
The status of the this council as of March 2020 is unclear:
- Jean Belanger
- Bruce Bent
- Brent Bozell
- Martin Boles
- John Childs
- Chris Chocola
- Terry Considine
- Dan Cook
- Oliver R. Grace
- Lawrence Kudlow
- Virginia James
- George Mitchell
- Rex Sinquefield
- Lee Tenzer
- Louis Woodhill
Club for Growth
2001 L Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Articles and References
IRS Form 990 Filings
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Political Action Committee
- Stephen Moore
- R.J. Johnson
- John Childs
- Thomas L. Rhodes
- Ed Crane
- Richard Gilder
- Pat Toomey
- Chris Chocola
- Brent Bozell
- Rex Sinquefield
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