Political leanings: Conservative
Spending target: Unknown
Club for Growth Action, the super PAC of the conservative Club for Growth, was launched in August 2010. On its website, the organization declares its mission is to “take on any Member of Congress … who fails to uphold basic economic conservative principles … regardless of party.”
The group targets some Republican incumbents in primary elections in order to replace them with “pro-growth, limited government Americans.” In 2014, it spent more than $3 million in a failed attempt to defeat GOP Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and replace him with Chris McDaniel.
In the 2016 cycle, Club for Growth Action spent about $20 million. On the presidential election alone, the group spent nearly $8 million — including a little more than $7 million against Donald Trump during the Republican primary. The group, for example, accused Trump in TV ads of supporting higher taxes. Once in office, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduced individual and corporate income tax rates, among other things. (See our story, “A Guide to the Tax Changes.”)
Club for Growth Action’s money in the last campaign cycle came largely from three conservative donors. Richard Uihlein, the chief executive officer of Uline, a shipping, packaging and industrial supplies company, gave the PAC $4.25 million. The other two major donors were Jackson Stephens Jr. and his brother, Warren — the sons of the late Jackson Stephens, who was CEO of a privately held financial services company called Stephens Inc.
Jackson Stephens Jr. is the chairman and CEO of ExOxEmis, a biotechnology firm. He is also the chairman of the Club for Growth board of directors. Warren Stephens is the president and CEO of Stephens Inc. The Stephens brothers combined to give Club for Growth Action $6.9 million in the 2016 cycle.
As of April 20, Club for Growth Action had spent more than $2.5 million this cycle — including about $700,000 on special House elections in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Last year, the group found itself at odds in the Georgia House race with a pro-Trump group called 45Committee. Club for Growth Action endorsed Republican Bob Gray — one of 18 candidates, including 11 Republicans, running in what was known as a “jungle primary.” 45Committee ran TV ads opposing Gray, claiming voters could not “trust him” because he “stands with the Club for Growth.”
Gray did not survive the primary. Karen Handel, a Republican, won the special election in a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.