During the debt ceiling Kabuki, Republicans brought up a debt deal that couldn’t make it out of the House because a significant number of Republicans voted against it. The next day Republicans put a similar bill on the table but this one had a “balanced budget amendment”; this one passed. Politico reported a big reason why, Club for Growth said they did not support Boehner’s old bill but supported the new one since it has the “balanced budget amendment”. This is no accident because a little research shows that Club for Growth, although not a household name, is a key political force.
Club for Growth is classified as a “heavy hitter” by OpenSecrets. They have already spent almost 80,000 dollars (all for Republicans) for the 2012 election. Pat Toomey was the President from 2005-2009 and was a big contributor to the PAC before winning a Senate Seat in 2010. He is a Republican who supports charter schools, has a terrible environmental record, and is for de-regulation of private industry. On their website, the group is publicly endorsing 4 candidates:
Josh Mandel is running for an Ohio Senate seat. He is running against Democrat Sherrod Brown and is currently the Ohio State treasurer. He is responsible for one of the biggest (and first) property tax slashes in history. While in the State Senate, he voted against a bill that would ensure equal rights, making it illegal to discriminate because of sexual orientation, in the work place. His campaigns have been filled with anti-Islam rhetoric, fear mongering about Iran, and he is a member of the premier Israel lobby, AIPAC.
Ted Cruz is running for Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s seat in the Senate, since she will be retiring. He was the former Solicitor General of Texas, appointed in 2003. He worked on the Bush/Cheney campaign and was the Domestic Policy Advisor under Bush 2. (Remember how well that went?) He has been endorsed by people like Erick Erickson, FreedomWorks’ PAC, Mark Levin, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. On his campaign site, he brags that he has defended “America’s Free-Market Economy” and fought “voter fraud.” He has also sued to “defeat ObamaCare”. Club for Growth has donated 5,000 dollars to his campaign.
Congressman Steve King is the only incumbent Club for Growth is publicly supporting on their website. They have donated 35,885 dollars to his campaign in this election cycle so far. Recently, King has been a real antagonist to the debt ceiling debate, has voted against any and every deal, and argued that default isn’t such a bad thing.
Jeff Flake is running for the Senate in Arizona (Flake is currently in the House). Club For Growth has already donated 450,890 to Flake’s campaign. If you have been paying attention, you can guess what kind of politician Flake is. He argues for the “shrinking of the federal government” and “decreasing spending”. He still thinks that George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security was a good idea. Naturally, he voted for the renewal of the Patriot Act, voted for the Iraq War, and is staunchly anti-environmental.
Club for Growth has also donated 10,000 dollars to Rand PAC, which is “a leadership PAC” for Senator Rand Paul. Paul has held fundraisers for the PAC with recommended donations of 1,000-5,000 dollars a plate. Despite framing himself as a “Washington Outsider”, Paul has taken much more big money, from groups like Club for Growth, the Koch Brothers and Big Coal, than small money. He even took 2,000 dollars from Sarah Palin’s PAC.
In the last election cycle Club for Growth gave money to “Family-PAC”, an Illinois PAC, which describes itself as a “pro-family, anti-tax political committee in Illinois” and laughably calls itself a “grassroots campaign”. They have supported Republicans (they have only donated to Republicans) Tom Coburn, Senator Jim Demint and others. They have received money from the CATO Institute, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Dick Barton (who has also donated to Michelle Bachmann), an executive of PNC Bank. PNC has good reason to donate to candidates, they are consistently accused of fraud, abuse, excessive fees, and general unfairness.
In the last election cycle Club for Growth spent more than a quarter of million dollars for Sharron Angle in her loss to Harry Reid. They actually spent almost half a million dollars, $209,000 of it on TV ads (that they admit anyway) against John M. Spratt, who was the House Committee on the Budget Chairman. He lost the race and Paul Ryan became the new House Committee on the Budget Chairman. Although Spratt out-raised the challenger Mulvaney, Mulvaney had 148,445 dollars of independent expenditures spent for him. Spratt had less than $7,000 of independent expenditures spent for him, and over 2 million dollars spent against him. In 2008, Club For Growth spent against Mike Huckabee, and John McCain’s bid for president, and didn’t seem to like any of the Republican candidates, one wonders who they will get behind this time.
So who are the donors to this group? There are a lot. The Center for Responsible Politics has 42 pages of about 75 people a piece on the 2008 cycle and about 28 pages for the 2010 election. Among those giving the max 5,000 dollars, are David Macneil, a member of the credit agency Silvercrest, Robert Levy of the Cato Institute, George Mitchell, the President of “School Choice” (read charter schools) of Wisconsin, and Howard Seidler, an investor of Saxon Investment Corporation. Out of people who gave 5,000 dollars to the PAC for the 2010 cycle, I count 51 of them being involved in investment, banking, or hedge funds.
Club for Growth has proven to be a political force in and for the Republican Party, and as money continues to play an even bigger role in politics, it’s time we pay less attention to candidates and more attention to groups like this.