The Washington Post

Club for Growth goes after Jon Huntsman


Jon Huntsman is taking heat from the powerful anti-tax group Club for Growth. (Spencer Platt/GETTY IMAGES)

The conservative powerhouse Club for Growth has taken a decidedly harsh view of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s fiscal approach in a new, detailed analysis of his record in office.

While Huntsman’s tax policies get a positive review, his record on government spending, regulation and health-care reform come in for considerable criticism in a new “presidential white paper” released by the Club.

“Between his inexcusable record on spending and his statement that ‘health care is a right’, Governor Huntsman has a lot of explaining to do if he wants to win the Republican nomination,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

In its white paper, the Club notes that Huntsman at one point considered an individual mandate for health-care coverage and created a government-run health-care exchange. The organization argues that he expanded state government unnecessarily in the 2000s.

Not so, according to Huntsman press secretary Tim Miller.

“Governor Huntsman fiscal management of Utah saw balanced budgets, reduced waste, a rainy day fund that grew by one-third -- during a recession -- and the largest tax cut in the states history,” Miller wrote in an email to the Fix. “This fiscal management resulted in Utah growing at more than double the national rate, adding more jobs than any state in the country. That is the kind of economic record that our country needs.”

The Club for Growth has a history of being tough on the GOP presidential nominees.

In 2008, the Club was particularly harsh on former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. In that case, Huckabee’s history of raising taxes angered the group. “Mike Huckabee is a liberal,” wrote Club for Growth Vice President Andrew Roth in 2006. Before passing on a presidential bid this time around, Huckabee was out front criticizing the group .

“Under their criteria the things that Ronald Reagan had to do as governor and as president probably would have made him a tax-loving socialist unfit for the White House as well,” Huckabee said in April.

The Club for Growth proved itself a powerful electoral force in primaries last cycle. But few presidential candidates have gotten a glowing recommendation from the group. The white paper on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney expressed “serious concerns,” over the health-care reform legislation he signed in the Bay State. From former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the group predicted “some serious disappointments and unevenness” if he was elected. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum’s record contained “more than a few weak spots,” according to the Club.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former Godfathers’ Pizza CEO Herman Cain both received generally positive reviews, although the group wanted more information from both candidates.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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