John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Club’s Bad Investments

Posted on January 17, 2012
Club for Growth Logo

The Club for Growth fancies itself a savvy investor in a better, more pro-business Congress.

With a Board of Directors stacked with Wall Street millionaires, the organization was founded in 1999 by now-Wall Street Journal editorialist Stephen Moore. It quickly made a name for itself by running advertisements against Republican politicians who didn’t adhere closely enough to the organization’s philosophical beliefs.

These days, Chris Chocola, an independently wealthy former congressman, leads the Club for Growth. Chocola lost his reelection bid in 2006 to Joe Donnelly, a moderate Indiana Democrat who has since easily carried the seat in two subsequent elections.

You would think Chocola would learn from his own experience that picking the most conservative candidate doesn’t always work, but since taking the helm of the Club, he has only doubled down on a strategy that makes it harder for Republicans to keep their majority in the House and take the majority back in the Senate.

Take Chocola’s home state of Indiana, for example. Dick Lugar, should he get through his primary, will easily win reelection. If Chocola successfully knocks off Lugar with his hand-picked candidate, Richard Mourdock, that Senate seat becomes wide open. Indeed, Chocola’s old nemesis, Joe Donnelly, would have a better-than-even chance of winning the seat against Mourdock. He has no chance against Dick Lugar.

Chocola’s organization is also taking on Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah). Hatch is chairman of the powerful Finance Committee and a dedicated conservative. He also should be spending his campaign war chest helping other Republican candidates, but he can’t. And he can’t because of Chris Chocola, whose organization is spending millions of dollars trying to knock Hatch off in a primary battle.

More frustrating is what Chocola is doing on the House side.

Fred Upton (Mich.) has done everything that the conservative Republican leadership has asked of him. He has battled ObamaCare, pushed conservative energy policies, kept the EPA’s feet to the fire. He has been an excellent chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But that conservative record isn’t enough for the Club for Growth, so they announced that they were going to throw good money after a losing cause, hoping to unseat Upton in the primary. Fred Upton is not going to lose his primary fight, and if he did, his seat would most assuredly go to the Democrats. But by attacking Upton in a primary battle, the Club for Growth makes it harder for Fred to help his colleagues with his campaign money. From a conservative Republican perspective, Chocola’s decision to go after Upton makes absolutely no sense.

Similarly, the Club for Growth is attacking Rep. Tim Murphy. Murphy is another reliable conservative vote. He doesn’t rock the boat, he doesn’t lead insurrections from the left, he doesn’t vote for tax increases. He did throw a vote or two to labor, but he did that because labor is kind of a big deal in Pennsylvania. If you don’t believe me, ask Rick Santorum why he voted against right-to-work legislation. If Murphy loses the primary, Republicans will lose the seat.

The Club for Growth helped keep Delaware in Democratic hands, helped keep Colorado in Democratic hands and helped keep Harry Reid as the Senate majority leader. The Club’s track record stinks, unless, of course, you want the Democrats to keep running the country.

The savvy investors who make up the board of the Club for Growth should take a closer look at how their donations are being invested in this election cycle. Making it harder for Republicans to keep their House majority and to take back the Senate seems to be a losing strategy, but that is exactly what the Club for Growth is doing so far this year.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Hill on January 16, 2012.