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A Day at the Lincoln Club: My Lunch With the Group Behind Citizens United and California’s Prop. 32

We’re Up to $60 Million”

It’s an unreasonably warm October day, and I’m milling about awkwardly with a handful of suits at a mixer in a small banquet hall at Newport Beach’s Pacific Club—which, according to its website, is the gathering place of choice for the “distinctive life-style of Orange County’s business and professional leaders.”

An incredible thirst suddenly overwhelms me, as I look down and see I’ve practically sweated through my cheap suit. I try my best to keep control of my decorum, but when a busser passes by with a lone Arnold Palmer on his tray, I snatch it greedily from the outstretched hands of another guest and suck the saccharine concoction down in one gulp.

The hot weather may be playing a small role in my odd behavior, but my discomfort is mainly due to the fact this is no ordinary mixer. I’ve successfully infiltrated one of the most powerful and secretive Republican organizations in the country: The Lincoln Club of Orange County. Back in September, I discovered a chink in its otherwise iron-clad armor with this note on the group’s website:

This election year is the most pivotal in recent memory. Will we continue on the path toward expanding government or will we change course and choose liberty? In California, will we stand by while special interests bankrupt our state or will we finally return Sacramento to the voters?

Whether it’s supporting conservative candidates and issues locally or at the national level, Lincoln Club membership gives you an opportunity to put your beliefs into action and to stay informed about crucial happenings in local, statewide, and national politics.

Learn more about how you can make a difference this election year.

Join us! Members are encouraged to attend with their prospective member guests.

The organizational brains and bucks behind Citizens United and Proposition 32 was looking for new members. Who was I to say no?

Easier said than done.

The club only has a few hundred members—none of whom, certainly, would be willing to drag a strange journalist to an event unless the writer were on the Koch brothers’ payroll.

So I RSVP’d independently, hoping that anyone coherent enough to string together a few sentences would be welcome. The contemporary Republican Party isn’t exactly loaded with William F. Buckley-types. If James O’Keefe can occupy an elite niche in the GOP pantheon, surely I could squeeze my way in.

And here I am, in the teeth of the Conservative movement, surrounded by power suits and blonde bouffants, trying to be the best Republican I can be. In preparation, I shaved my sideburns up above my ears, and slicked my hair to the side–a Chappelle’s Show parody of a white guy. I must look the part, as I spy the blondest, most-intimidating bouffant of them all making its way toward me. It belongs to Teresa Hernandez, a onetime Republican congressional candidate who tried to take Hilda Solis’ seat after Obama appointed her Secretary of Labor. Almost as soon as I sign myself in, Hernandez introduces herself.

“Hi, I’m Teresa. I’m a member.” She lets that settle in. “So… ‘Allen,’” she says, staring skeptically at my pseudonymous name tag. “Where are you from?”

“Glendale,” I tell her, which is true, even though it’s an hour’s drive north in L.A. County – which has its own Lincoln Club.

“Glendale, huh? That must have been quite a . . . schlep.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. She doesn’t suspect me of being a journalist. I must have merely set off her Jewdar.

“Oy,” I say, laying it on thick, “a schlep indeed. No traffic, thank heavens.”

“So what brings you all the way down here, Allen?” [cont’d.]

CommunityMy FDL

A Day at the Lincoln Club: My Lunch With the Group Behind Citizens United and California’s Prop. 32

We’re Up to $60 Million”

It’s an unreasonably warm October day, and I’m milling about awkwardly with a handful of suits at a mixer in a small banquet hall at Newport Beach’s Pacific Club—which, according to its website, is the gathering place of choice for the “distinctive life-style of Orange County’s business and professional leaders.”

An incredible thirst suddenly overwhelms me, as I look down and see I’ve practically sweated through my cheap suit. I try my best to keep control of my decorum, but when a busser passes by with a lone Arnold Palmer on his tray, I snatch it greedily from the outstretched hands of another guest and suck the saccharine concoction down in one gulp.

The hot weather may be playing a small role in my odd behavior, but my discomfort is mainly due to the fact this is no ordinary mixer. I’ve successfully infiltrated one of the most powerful and secretive Republican organizations in the country: The Lincoln Club of Orange County. Back in September, I discovered a chink in its otherwise iron-clad armor with this note on the group’s website:

This election year is the most pivotal in recent memory. Will we continue on the path toward expanding government or will we change course and choose liberty? In California, will we stand by while special interests bankrupt our state or will we finally return Sacramento to the voters?

Whether it’s supporting conservative candidates and issues locally or at the national level, Lincoln Club membership gives you an opportunity to put your beliefs into action and to stay informed about crucial happenings in local, statewide, and national politics.

Learn more about how you can make a difference this election year.

Join us! Members are encouraged to attend with their prospective member guests.

The organizational brains and bucks behind Citizens United and Proposition 32 was looking for new members. Who was I to say no?

Easier said than done.

The club only has a few hundred members—none of whom, certainly, would be willing to drag a strange journalist to an event unless the writer were on the Koch brothers’ payroll.

So I RSVP’d independently, hoping that anyone coherent enough to string together a few sentences would be welcome. The contemporary Republican Party isn’t exactly loaded with William F. Buckley-types. If James O’Keefe can occupy an elite niche in the GOP pantheon, surely I could squeeze my way in.

And here I am, in the teeth of the Conservative movement, surrounded by power suits and blonde bouffants, trying to be the best Republican I can be. In preparation, I shaved my sideburns up above my ears, and slicked my hair to the side–a Chappelle’s Show parody of a white guy. I must look the part, as I spy the blondest, most-intimidating bouffant of them all making its way toward me. It belongs to Teresa Hernandez, a onetime Republican congressional candidate who tried to take Hilda Solis’ seat after Obama appointed her Secretary of Labor. Almost as soon as I sign myself in, Hernandez introduces herself.

“Hi, I’m Teresa. I’m a member.” She lets that settle in. “So… ‘Allen,’” she says, staring skeptically at my pseudonymous name tag. “Where are you from?”

“Glendale,” I tell her, which is true, even though it’s an hour’s drive north in L.A. County – which has its own Lincoln Club.

“Glendale, huh? That must have been quite a . . . schlep.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. She doesn’t suspect me of being a journalist. I must have merely set off her Jewdar.

“Oy,” I say, laying it on thick, “a schlep indeed. No traffic, thank heavens.”

“So what brings you all the way down here, Allen?”

“Well,” I tell Hernandez, “if you want to become active in the conservative movement in California, this is the place. The Lincoln Club of Orange County is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.”

This too, is true. Since the days of Richard Nixon, the Lincoln Club has been the Matrix-like ideological birthing chamber of California Republicanism, whose grandees and arbiters once guided Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian and Arnold Schwarzenegger when their political careers were in their larval stages. That same Lincoln Club gave us the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court victory—which paved the way for Super PACs and unlimited, anonymous corporate donations—and, over the past year, had been instrumental in pushing Proposition 32 onto the California ballot. (The measure would permanently gut the clout of California’s unions by prohibiting automatic payroll deductions from being used for political purposes.)

“Well…that’s good,” Hernandez replies, suddenly uninterested and looking for an exit strategy. I wasn’t ready to let her go.

“So, how are the Prop. 32 efforts looking?” I ask, opening my eyes as wide as possible in my best simulacrum of Republican excitement. “Does it still have a shot?”

Her face immediately brightens: “We’re up to $60 million. We’re outspending them now! I think we’re going to do it.”

With that, more attendees filter in and Hernandez excuses herself to greet them. Many, quite honestly, seem like wealthy retirees with little else to do, although there are some GOP farm league players too, including Garden Grove city council candidate Phat Bui.

But make no mistake: The Lincoln Club is the real deal. And if they have their way, Citizens United is just the beginning of their political ambitions for the country.

Kingmaker of Southland Republicans

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