Club for Growth Endorsement of Catalina Lauf In Name Only?

By John Lopez

Early Thursday (June 23) afternoon , the venerable Club for Growth PAC, one of the leading free-enterprise advocacy groups known for spending millions of dollars through independent expenditures (IE) to elect their endorsed candidates to public office, either the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate or governorships, endorsed Catalina Lauf (R, Woodstock) five days before the Illinois primary for the 11th Congressional District.

Applying discernment to this endorsement reveals some very unusual observations, which are shared to determine why this Club for Growth PAC differs from the other current 13 U.S. House endorsements.

Here are the observations why this last-minute Club for Growth endorsement is different from the norm.

Endorsements for U.S. House Usually Months in Advance, not Days

The Club for Growth, when endorsing candidates for the U.S. House before the candidate’s primary election, usually endorses their candidates at least 2 months in advance.

Lauf was endorsed five days before the Illinois primary.

The expectation, if the Club for Growth was going to be involved in Illinois, was a post-primary endorsement of the primary winner to set-up the general elect4ion.

In IL-11, whichever Republican emerges as the winner in the primary, they are literally going to be millions of dollars behind incumbent Democrat Congressman Bill Foster of Naperville.

Through June 8 according to his latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing, Foster had over $4.75 million in the bank for the fall campaign.

Per this FEC tracking from McHenry County Blog, none of the IL-11 Republican candidates had more than $50K in the bank through June 8:

The Club for Growth PAC through its Club for Growth Action super PAC, helps their endorsed candidates most significantly through the IE which pays directly for media advertising, including purchased commercial ad time on TV stations within a congressional district’s media market.  For example, the Club for Growth, in combined PAC and super PAC IE spending, has spent over $1.5 million in the high-profile IL-15 Republican primary between Illinois Family Action endorsed Congresswoman Mary Miller, either supporting Miller or opposing her opponent, Congressman Rodney Davis.

Clearly, for the June 28 Republican primary, Club for Growth’s priority is getting Miller across the primary finish line first, and ahead of Davis.

Unlike former President Donald Trump, the Club for Growth does not do last-minute endorsements in races where the candidate receiving the endorsement is not at risk of losing.  For example, late Sunday night (June 26), former President Trump, in addition to his endorsement back on January 1 of Miller and Saturday’s endorsement of state Senator Darren Bailey (R, Xenia) for governor, endorsed Congressmen Mike Bost (R, Murphysboro) and Darin LaHood (R, Dunlap).

Both incumbent Illinois Republicans endorsed Sunday night only face token opposition on the primary ballot.

Trump stayed out of the IL-11, and endorsed none of the six Republican candidates, where only three candidates have a realistic chance of winning.  Translation, while Club for Growth thinks Lauf will win the primary for IL-11, Trump’s people do not and he’ll stay neutral in the IL-11 race through the primary.

Endorsement in IL-11 in a “Likely Democrat” Rated District

The two major rating services for congressional races, the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, both assigned an initial rating of “Likely Democrat” to the 11th Congressional District of Illinois.

Club for Growth, in a pre-primary endorsement for the U.S. House, usually endorses only in safe/solid Republican districts where the primary winner normally wins the general election in the fall.  Sometimes, the Club will endorse in a high-profile toss-up rated district for the U.S. House pre-primary, but races in districts rated “Likely Democrat” or “Leans Democrat” is not the norm.

In addition to the Club’s endorsement of Lauf in Likely Democrat IL-11, the only other current U.S. House endorsement made by the Club pre-primary in a district rated in favor of the Democrats took place in CA-47, the new Orange County based district in Southern California currently represented by two-term Congresswoman Katie Porter (D).

The new CA-47 is currently rated “Leans Democrat”.

The long-time Republican district was flipped to Democrat in the 2018 Blue Wave election and Porter is a very prolific fundraiser who last reported having over $18 million in the bank, according to the FEC.

California, for all of its downballot primary elections including Congress, uses a top-two blanket primary, where all congressional candidates run for election in the primary on a single ballot and the top-two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

The California primary for the 2022 cycle was June 7.

Scott Baugh

Back in late March, the Club for Growth endorsed former California Assemblyman (equivalent to an Illinois state representative) Scott Baugh in the primary to challenge Congresswoman Porter.

The differences between Baugh and Lauf are night and day.

Baugh, who turns 60 on July 4, is married and has a son and lives in Huntington Beach, where he is an attorney.

Back in 1995, Baugh won his seat int he California Assembly at age 33 through a recall election where his assemblywoman was successfully recalled, and Baugh was the top votegetter among the replacement candidates.

Baugh went on to win reelection in 1996 and 1998, and chose not to seek reelection in 2000, after serving his last term as the Republican minority leader.  Since leaving elective politics, Baugh went on to build a successful law practice.

Baugh’s Financial Disclosure report (FD) bears his success out, and the 10-page FD can be viewed here.

Through May 18, Baugh had received just under $6,000 in IEs from the Club for Growth, and the bulk of Baugh’s IE funding came in the form of $50K from the Congressional Leadership Fund.

On June 7, Baugh finished a strong 2nd to Congresswoman Porter in CA-47:

From California Target Book

Baugh finished 2nd in the primary, and the top Republican which makes him the Republican nominee for the fall to challenge the formidable Porter, who garnered nearly 52% of the primary vote on the single-ballot primary on June 7.

As pointed out, the 59-year-old Baugh and the 29-year-old Lauf are different as night and day, given Baugh’s already served in elective public office at the end of the 20th Century, and with multiple life experiences including marriage, family and successful business, as evidenced in his FD.

Lauf’s FD is only 2 pages long, and her main job does not report income, and she reported only $5,000 of income for 2022, all in the form of a book advance.

Like was said earlier, a night and day comparison, and the Club endorsed Lauf five days before the primary.

Lauf Endorsement Appears to be Name Only Tracing to Congressman Byron Donalds

Kim Klacik, Anna Paulina Luna & Catalina Lauf in Georgia runoff election eve 1/4/21

As was told in an article published last month, Lauf participated with the Club for Growth Action super PAC’s “Save America Tour” to help campaign for the two incumbent U.S. Senators from Georgia in the January 5, 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections.

Lauf participated for about a week in mid December of 2020 on the tour across Georgia, and after the Holidays, she returned for the election eve rally hosted by President Trump on January 4.

During her time on the Save America Tour, one of the many VIPs Lauf met was then-Congressman-elect Byron Donalds (R, FL-19), who won his winner-take-all open seat Republican primary in the solid Republican district of Southwest Florida with strong backing from the Club for Growth Action super PAC.

Putting it bluntly, Donalds wouldn’t be in Congress today if it were not for Club for Growth.

Byron Donalds

Back on June 1, Congressman Donalds was the keynote speaker at the annual gala of the Lake County Republican Federation in Wheeling, and Lauf attended the out-of-district event.

Fast forward to Father’s Day weekend (June 18-19), and word received of a poll taking place within the IL-11, and three Republican candidates, Lauf, Jerry Evans (R, Warrenville) and Illinois Family Action endorsed Mark Carroll (R, North Aurora) were being surveyed for Republican primary support.  No push polling technique was being used, just a measure of how strong a respondent support for a preferred candidate among the three names.

By Thursday, the poll which likely was Club for Growth yielded a decision to endorse Lauf, in spite of being 5 days in advance of the primary.

The Club for Growth, in deciding how much to spend for a candidate through independent expediture, base all their decisions on polling, so taking a poll in the IL-11 is part of the Club’s method of operations.

Whatever the case, outside of social media, the Club announced its endorsement of Lauf, quickly followed by the following endorsement from Congressman Donalds:

“Catalina Lauf has my full endorsement for Congress in IL-11.  I know Catalina is a strong conservative who will do a tremendous job representing the people of Illinois.”

As said elsewhere, all of Lauf’s endorsements from elected public officials are out-of-state, and both Donalds and the Club for Growth endorsement are the latest of a total of six endorsements Lauf has received going into the Illinois primary.


Since the endorsement early Thursday afternoon, there have been no transfers from the Club for Growth to Lauf, as under FEC rules, any contribution of $1,000 or more must be reported within 48 hours with the FEC equivalent of an Illinois “A-1” report within 20 days of an election.  No independent expenditures were spent to support Lauf’s candidacy before the primary (FEC disclosure rules apply with IEs), and apart from Capitol FaxMcHenry County Blog and Illinois Family Action, no media outlet has picked up the endorsement.

Therefore, like another popular epithet within Republican Party politics, the Club for Growth’s endorsement appears to be “in name only” since it has not been backed-up with any spending from the Club on Lauf’s behalf.

Whether Lauf wins the primary with the help of the Club’s endorsement will be known on primary night, but where President Trump chose not to endorse in IL-11, and the Club for Growth did, the Club’s endorsement can be traced to the June 1 event in Wheeling when Congressman Donalds came to town.

John Lopez has written about policy and elections through the McHenry County Blog since 2019. He is now semi-retired, and does freelance work with analytics, as well as political candidates, emphasizing policy as the means to advance the conservative message, by engaging through policy “dog fighting”, applying discernment for winning and advancing God’s Kingdom agenda.

John’s known for getting past the talking points, the narratives, the abstracts, the platitudes and the bromides in order to discuss policy and apply Scripture to overcome unholy divisions in the local community, our state, and nation.  John has been married for over 17 years.

Follow John on Twitter: @MarcVAvelar