Is Rubio “Clubbing” The Club?

by | Sep 12, 2016

Club for Growth President David McIntosh is aggressively stamping out rumors of a rift between his organization and Senator Marco Rubio centered over campaign tactics in Pennsylvania and Florida. While Club for Growth has long supported Rubio, some potential high-dollar donors (the kind of donors who typically write large checks to SuperPACs capable of raising and spending unlimited amounts of money) are allegedly being warned away from giving to groups like the Club for Growth SuperPAC, in favor of Rubio’s own SuperPAC. But McIntosh says the rumors are false, citing a recent fundraising phone call between Rubio and donors to the Club’s hard-dollar political action committee.

Still, the whisper campaign persists, which includes specific examples of unsuccessful candidates backed by Club for Growth, including a close loss in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District by Mary Thomas, as well as a Pennsylvania television ad produced to attack the opponent of former Club president Pat Toomey. Both efforts were outsourced to Jamestown Associates, according to FEC filings. In the Pennsylvania ad, Club for Growth paid Jamestown Associates $520,600 to produce and air the spot. In Florida, Jamestown collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mary Thomas’s campaign to produce and air television spots on her behalf, although in that race, Club for Growth had no direct role in Thomas’s campaign spending or vendor decisions.

Jamestown Associates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The criticisms mentioned to potential Club donors specifically cited Thomas’s failure in Florida and pointed to criticism that the Pennsylvania ad “backfired” because it enabled Toomey’s opponent to label him as “sexist.”

But some observers reject the narrative circulating in Tallahassee, pointing to the Club for Growth’s record so far this year of eight wins in thirteen races, including four out of the last five in Florida and Arizona.

“Club for Growth takes on tough races, and they’re having a banner year. Labeling the Pennsylvania spot as sexist is the typical Democrat response to an ad that worked,” says one conservative strategist following the race.

In Mary Thomas’s race in Florida, McIntosh points out that the Club helped bundle $225,000 for Thomas, who only lost the primary by a narrow margin to Neal Dunn. 

“She was outspent two-to-one, and it was a close race,” McIntosh said. “We helped her raise more than a quarter of her total.”

Despite the sniping, McIntosh says Club for Growth has raised over $35 million nationally this cycle, some of which they will spend on Rubio in September and October. He shrugs off the criticism as typical in a competitive election cycle like this one.

“That’s life in politics, one of the things we’re experiencing a lot this year,” he said. “But we’re having the best cycle so far in terms of 2016 congressional races, and we’re in great shape for November, too, especially with Toomey and Rubio. We’re definitely going to help in Florida.” 



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