The Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a political-action organization originally known as the Golden Eagle Club, was founded in 1983 with the goal of promoting fiscally responsible candidates, ballot measures and legislation. There are several similar “clubs” throughout California and elsewhere that are also named for America's first Republican president, though none of them are affiliated in any way with the Lincoln Club of San Diego County.
“One of the things that makes the Lincoln Club of San Diego County pretty unique is the fact that we do support Democrats,” said Ryan Clumpner, who became the Lincoln Club's executive director last April. “Most Lincoln Clubs are more partisan and the scope of their issues is a little bit wider. We are very narrowly focused and support candidates of all stripes that fall in line with our priorities.”
That narrow focus, according to Clumpner, is local business issues. The Lincoln Club's mission is to affect the outcome of elections by backing selected candidates and propositions that are favorable to the 350-member organization's objectives. The Lincoln Club is non-partisan and seeks to consolidate its considerable influence behind a single candidate and/or issue.
“I would say that one of the Lincoln Club's most lasting impacts on San Diego is Proposition B, the comprehensive pension reform,” Clumpner said. “The Lincoln Club was influential in 2011 (and) 2012, both in brokering a deal so that then-Mayor Sanders and Councilman Carl DeMaio, and Councilman Kevin Faulconer and all the other civic leaders could get behind one pension-reform initiative that everyone could support. And then, as important, was raising of the roughly (one) million dollars that it took to gather the signatures to qualify that for the ballot.”
And in the aftermath of former Mayor Bob Filner's departure, the Lincoln Club fully supported Faulconer “from very early on and we did everything we could to make sure that he was successful,” Clumpner said, to include hosting fundraisers and making independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate. “In the two rounds of the (post-Filner) mayoral election, the Lincoln Club took on the responsibility of shining a light on Nathan Fletcher's record and (that of) David Alvarez,” Clumpner said.
Although the Lincoln Club has several high-profile members, Clumpner said that the membership is comprised of an eclectic mix of “regular, professional people.”
“It's really quite a broad spectrum and that's something that we're always striving for, to build a Lincoln Club that is reflective of the business community in San Diego as a whole,” Clumpner said. “Meaning, as a cross-section of political parties and viewpoints on issues and industry, because that's really our mission, to do what's in the best interests of the regional economy.”
According to Clumpner, there's not an “off-season” for a political-action organization.
“In the modern campaign cycle, the next election begins the day after the previous one,” Clumpner said. “When we are not engaged in an active independent expenditure, in that window right before an election, we're focused on a lot of the support that goes into making those efforts possible, meaning the membership recruitment, fund-raising of general support for our political-action fund and research.”
Written by Tony Lovitt, a La Jolla-based freelance writer.