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Steinhauer Plays "Gotcha" With "Conservative Orthodoxy" of Club for Growth Activists

New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer played “gotcha” with the free-market group Club for Growth on Friday while faulting it for harmful "conservative fiscal orthodoxy," in “A Conservative Leader Was Less So in Congress.”

As president of the Club for Growth, the politically active free-market advocacy group, Chris Chocola wields tremendous power, rating members of Congress on their fiscally conservative purism. Those who fail to meet the club’s tests can expect a club-backed primary opponent, or at least a negative advertising barrage that leaves them trembling.

Had he been in his increasingly influential position just a few years ago, Mr. Chocola would have almost certainly aimed heavy political fire at a fiscally straying Republican lawmaker from Indiana: himself. When he was in the House, from 2003 to 2007, Mr. Chocola voted for various pieces of legislation that are similar to the ones that his group now rails against.

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If Mr. Chocola now holds the Republican world to a conservative fiscal orthodoxy he did not practice as a lawmaker, he does not see a problem. “The world has changed,” he said. “And some of my views have changed. I am not asking to be elected now."

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But many Republicans say the Club for Growth is holding members to impossible legislative standards in a city where their party remains a minority, and that it contributes to the gridlock that many Americans find toxic.

What’s more, many Republicans -- most of whom are so afraid of the group that they will not talk about them on the record -- say the Club for Growth and other conservative groups are running people once considered good conservatives out of town. Representative Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee, is one of its targets.