The Club is financed by a small group of big donors, many of them company founders and entrepreneurs. Seven people gave the Club at least $1 million for the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Public Integrity, including Club Chairman Jackson T. Stephens Jr. of Arkansas, whose family underwrote the initial public offering for Wal-Mart in 1970.
Three others rank among the nation’s top 25 political donors, according to the center: Perry Homes founder Bob Perry of Texas, who died in April; private equity giant John Childs of Florida; and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who helped bankroll the presidential campaign of then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.).
The group also gathers contributions from thousands of members and delivers them directly to candidates it has endorsed. All told, the Club says it spent about $17 million to support its picks last year and bundled another $7 million for their campaigns.
Chocola said he is not trying “to make people miserable” but to push the party to live up to its own economic claims, to make the case for smaller government in a “clear and convincing way.”
“The world has changed,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is get the Republicans to think about what they’re doing rather than continually do these things that were done out of habit, from a transportation bill to a farm bill. We may not win every battle, but we at least get to have the debate: How much are you spending? Is it good policy? Who’s going to pay for it?”
Chocola said he has “great respect” for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) because, as speaker, “she knew she could lose her majority doing something she believed in called Obamacare. And public opinion was against her. And she lost the House. But today, it’s the law.”
Republican leaders, by contrast, have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to implement the sequester and to offer a budget that balances in 10 years, Chocola said. Still, those things have happened. “So we like the direction,” he said. “But our job is never to be satisfied.”
Paul Kane contributed to this report.