Growing the movement: Club for Growth Foundation seeks future conservative leaders

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Club for Growth President David McIntosh (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Growing the movement: Club for Growth Foundation seeks future conservative leaders

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EXCLUSIVE — The Club for Growth Foundation brings people from across the country to Washington, D.C., as part of its fellowship program to train people on how to advance their causes in local or state Republican politics.

As such, 45 of this year’s Club for Growth Foundation fellows packed into the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Washington late last week for a day of training.


Club for Growth Foundation is legally distinct from the Club for Growth, which is widely known for backing candidates in Republican primaries who support fiscal conservatism. They are both run by former Indiana GOP Rep. David McIntosh to support limited government and economic growth.

“On the political side for Club for Growth, we were meeting candidates over and over again who said, ‘We’re conservative, we’re for limited government.’ And then I’d ask them, ‘Why do you want to be in Congress?’ [and they’d say,] ‘Oh, I want to solve problems,’” McIntosh told the Washington Examiner. “And I’m thinking good intentions, but if they get here to Washington and solve problems as a member of Congress, they’re gonna think about creating more government.”

McIntosh, who co-founded the Federalist Society, looked at what that organization had done by building a network of like-minded members in the legal profession all across the country. He considered doing the same thing to advance free market priorities. He wanted to create a group of people who are leaders in their community — in business, nonprofit groups, and local government — and “introduce them to each other, connect them together, and see what happens.”

“We want the private sector, the free market, to solve problems,” he said. “So why don’t I start a movement with young leaders to show them how the free market works, how it solves problems?”

Fellows are chosen from a list of applicants and a vetting process, McIntosh said. They’re questioned about books they’ve read and what they’ve done in the community. They are also asked to take a personality test. Then there is the interview process, where about four people sit and question them.

If accepted, applicants have monthly Zoom meetings and meet in person for conferences where they have training twice a year. That training includes everything from media training to policy discussions.

On Friday, fellows went through several media training exercises, such as a “murder board” in which one fellow faces a panel of three people and is questioned as if they are in a press conference. The goal is to make people as uncomfortable as possible and then critique their performance and train them how they could have answered better.

It also includes a “managing hostility” training in which a speaker walks them through how to respond, or not respond, to questions from the media when they are flustered.

“The media training is outstanding,” said fellow Jake Bequette, a former player for the New England Patriots who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in Arkansas in 2022. “It doesn’t hurt to get extra reps in, you know. I’ve done it for a long time with football and in the military and politics. But it’s always great to hone that skill, perfect your craft, and become a more effective communicator.”

Multiple fellows have gone on to be elected, including two from this most recent freshman class in the House: Reps. Josh Brecheen (R-OK) and Eric Burlison (R-MO).

Both members spoke at the conference during a dinner on Friday night, where they talked about the connections they made during the fellowship and how the fellowship has helped them as members of Congress.

“Through the information and training I received as a Club for Growth Fellow, I was better equipped to build support for and advance pro-growth economic policy in the Missouri Senate,” Burlison said in a statement. “The media training and other informational tools provided by the Fellowship allowed me to become a better spokesperson for freedom.”

The foundation also releases a scorecard of all the members of Congress, where they rate the votes of members on related “pro-growth policies” and compute an “Economic Growth Score” for the members.

Lawmakers who had a score of 90 or higher in 2022 and also have a lifetime score of 90 or higher receive the Defender of Economic Freedom Award from the foundation.


This year, 57 lawmakers received that award, including Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), former Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse, and Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Bob Good (R-VA), and Chip Roy (R-TX).

“What we found that we at the federal level, it’s like the old report card 90 and above is an A,” McIntosh said. “And we publish it so the constituents will know how their members are doing.”

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