The Club for Growth, led by President Chris Chocola, handpicks leaders based on their stance on one issue and one issue only: pro-growth policy. They don’t pretend to be a grassroots organization with millions of members, nor do they endorse hundreds of candidates. Each cycle, they spend money — a lot of money! — helping a relatively elite group of candidates win elections.
And that’s probably why they are one of the most effective political organizations in America.
As is often the case, it’s not just what The Club does that matters as much as what they don’t do. “Our unique effectiveness is that we have an uncompromising adherence to our mission… everything we do is to try to achieve pro-growth policy. We only do economic issues. We don’t do social issues. We don’t do foreign policy,” Chocola said during a meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday morning. (See the above photo? I’m the fuzzy guy on the right).
“We’re convinced that candidates really matter, candidates that are extraordinary in their ability to deliver a clear, concise, convincing pro-growth message… Our job is to identify the ideal person.”
If leadership is about figuring out you’re unique selling proposition — who you are or what you’re about — and then executing it –The Club is one of the most disciplined and focused groups in politics.
When asked about intervening in leadership races for House or Senate Majority Leader, Chocola insisted: “People often ask ‘what do you guys do about leadership?’ We don’t get to elect leaders. We don’t engage in leadership races…that’s not effective.” Instead, The Club endorses fiscally conservative candidates vying for a spot in Congress, based on the assumption that by electing enough good Members, the leadership problems will take care of themselves.
“The only thing we can do is get more pro-growth type members — and if we do that the leadership thing will take care of itself,” he said.
It is tempting for leaders and organizations to take on more projects, try to be all things to all people, and inadvertently water down their calling. This often happens when donors promise to fund “pet” projects (who can turn down money?). The problem with this tail-wagging-the-dog trap is that you start by agreeing to do some side projects to fund your mission and the next thing you know, your mission has been relegated to a secondary status.
The Club has wisely avoided this trap.
(Note: I’ve been a fan of The Club for years, and have even moderated panel discussions at a few of their conferences.)
To be sure, Chocola inherited a well-run organization from former Club president (now U.S. Senator) Pat Toomey, but one can assume that some of his leadership philosophy comes — not just from his time as a Congressman — but also from his time in business.
Speaking of business, Chocola also spoke about how businessmen, like Mitt Romney, often struggle on their path towards political leadership. “In politics, 90 percent of what you do is look like you’re doing something [and] 10 percent is actually doing something,” he said. “In business, 90 percent of what you do is doing something, and the other 10 percent is trying to spin it and convince people that what you’re doing is great.”
–Laura Byrne contributed to this post.