The conservative advocacy group Club for Growth announced Wednesday afternoon that it had reached an agreement with the Congressional Leadership Fund, a hybrid PAC endorsed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), “to support President Kevin McCarthy” as the United States House. The battle of the speakers reaches its third day.
Voting resumed Thursday afternoon after McCarthy failed to secure enough votes to win the presidency Wednesday evening after six rounds of voting, a historic deadlock not seen in the U.S. House since 1923. With a slim GOP majority in the House, McCarthy can afford to lose no more than four GOP votes to win his bid for speaker. He is reportedly working on deals with the 20 Republicans currently standing in his way.
In exchange for support from the prominent GOP advocacy group, the Congressional Leadership Fund will not spend money on open-seat GOP primaries in safe GOP districts or give money to other outside groups to do so. Club for Growth has previously voiced opposition to McCarthy, issuing a statement on Jan. 2 opposing any speaker who disagreed that the Congressional Leadership Fund should be prohibited from spending money on open GOP primaries or against a Republican incumbent.
The support of the Club for Growth could help clarify the path forward with GOP resistance worried McCarthy, and the Congressional Leadership Fund had supported more moderate candidates in open primaries.
“Kevin McCarthy is recruiting his big economic allies to strike a deal to make him talk. Candidates can’t coordinate with outside groups on spending decisions, and the deep ties between McCarthy and CLF raise real questions about whether they’ve already broken the law,” Adam Smith, director of the Democratic campaign finance reform group End Citizens United and Let America Vote’s Action Fund, told OpenSecrets in a written statement.
Spokesmen for McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund told the Washington Post that neither McCarthy nor any member of his team was involved in the deal between the super PAC and the Club for Growth.
“No one in Congress or their staff has directed or suggested that CLF take any action here,” Club for Growth told OpenSecrets in a written statement, echoing the press release from the Congressional Leadership Fund.
The deal was also a big win for the Club for Growth, a perennial power player in the Republican primaries, a position further protected by this deal with the Congressional Leadership Fund. Since 2008, Club for Growth has spent more than $115 million in primaries and special elections. During the 2022 election cycle, the group spent most of its outside money on Republican primaries.
Of the $69.7 million the Club for Growth super PAC spent on federal elections during the 2022 election cycle, $39 million was spent during the primary election season. In addition to spending against Democratic senators, including Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) in swing states during the general election, Club for Growth spent $5.2 million against the now Sens. JD Vance (R-Ohio) and $2.6 million against Katie Britt (R-Ala.) in their respective Republican US Senate primaries.
Both Vance and Britt won both the nomination and their general election, but Club for Growth spent a total of $18.7 million against candidates who lost a runoff in the 2022 election cycle. The conservative group managing to eliminate several GOP candidates in key Senate primaries in North Carolina and Ohio, as well as for the US House in Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida and Georgia.
“This agreement on super PAC’s [sic] it meets an important concern we have been pushing for,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh wrote in a press release issued Thursday morning.
The Congressional Leadership Fund has never spent money explicitly opposing a Republican incumbent during a GOP primary, according to OpenSecrets data. All of the money spent supporting Republican challengers during the GOP’s U.S. House primaries was in Democratic-held districts.
Congressional Leadership Fund President Dan Conston underscored this point in the press release, writing, “CLF has never spent a dollar against a Republican incumbent and will obviously continue that policy in the future.”
The hybrid PAC dropped $227.1 million during the 2022 midterm elections, making it the second-highest spending election cycle. More than $214.4 million was spent in the general election on 95 candidates, with a 42 percent success rate per candidate, according to OpenSecrets data.
The Congressional Leadership Fund’s mission is to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives, and it spent more money than any other group during the 2022 election cycle to help Republicans win back the chamber. But the lack of party unity shown during the House speaker vote could make it difficult to govern once a speaker is chosen.