"This will be a time of pretty aggressive expansion of the litigation and public affairs side," Smith said. "We're going to try, in this presidential election year, being more aggressive, showing on a quick-time basis how the [campaign finance] laws, rather than helping, are actually screwing things up. And David's hiring is certainly a starting point."
Smith said that it was unlikely the center will start a new offshoot for lobbying, but he didn't rule it out. The Club for Growth, during Keating's tenure, set up different entities, and Keating said he did innovative things in terms of the organization's structure.
As for its advocacy work, Smith said the center is keeping watch at the state level where campaign finance reformers have turned in part because of gridlock in Congress.
"We have to go where the action is," Smith said. "State governments can do an awful lot to chill speech."
Keating, who joined the Club for Growth in 2000, said he spent the early years there helping to build its membership. He plans to stay on as an adviser on structural issues and fundraising, he said.
For its part, the club, which has acquired a scrappy image over the years by backing more conservative primary opponents against incumbent GOP Members, declined to comment on when or even whether Keating will be replaced. But the club's spokesman, Barney Keller, said Keating had been "instrumental ... in steering the club as far as our policy positions went."
Keller added that Keating put together the club's scorecard, which rates the voting records of Members of Congress. The group then used that scorecard to help determine which lawmakers did not pass muster.
And on the political front, he added, "Super PACs don't exist without David Keating."
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.