What Happened When I Infiltrated One of the Most Secretive and Powerful Republican Organizations in the Country
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Remorseless laughter fills the room. There’s a very obvious understanding that the sweep of Citizens United goes well beyond Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
After the video, Loewen takes the stage to talk up the current pride of the organization: Proposition 32.
“This measure is really a game-changer,” he says, smiling. “Over the past 20 years, we here at the Lincoln Club have tried getting paycheck protection passed in California three different times with no luck. The measures have just gotten killed by the public unions. Whenever the unions put their full support behind something, no one can beat them.
“But a couple of years ago, we figured, hey, let’s give it another shot. People said we were crazy. And they were probably right. But we started off slow, just to see what would happen. So we gave [conservative journalist] Steve Greenhut $75,000 to write his book Plunder, about how public employee unions are bankrupting the state. It did pretty well.
“Okay, we thought. How about qualifying this thing for the 2012 ballot? Once again, people said we were crazy. But the Tea Party suddenly became interested. With absolutely zero money, they got about 30,000 signatures. A long way off, but we figured it showed some serious interest. Our testing showed the key [to success], unlike our last paycheck protection measures, was including corporations in the measure.
“So we put a little money behind it—about $100,000–and, what do you know, we qualified for the ballot. The unions went ballistic. At first, we were getting killed on spending. But then, out of the blue a massive $4 million donation showed up and the money has been rolling in ever since. People are calling Prop. 32 the second most important vote in the country in this election cycle, after the president.
“So there you have it. A small group of people, with just a little bit of money and the right connections, can have a huge impact.”
We’re Not Racist
After Loewen’s ode to 32, Hernandez stands up to discuss the club’s next big political endeavor—luring Latino voters to the Republican cause.
“Latinos are 39 percent of the population in California and growing,” she says. “And they almost all vote Democrat. We’re never going to win unless we reach this demographic.”
Of course, with state Republicans historically allied with groups like the Minutemen and 1994’s Proposition 187—which, among other things, sought to prevent undocumented immigrants from having access to health care in California—it’s little wonder Latinos are skeptical.
“Even though they agree with us on many social issues, when Latinos think about the Republican Party, they’re thinking about us deporting their grandma or their cousin,” says Hernandez. “When Democrats call us racist—which we’re not—we have no response, no plan we can point to that Latinos can rally behind.”
That is where the Lincoln Club stands poised to jump in with a three-point plan: Securing the border, workplace enforcement and a guest worker program. Of course, Hernandez’s guest worker program doesn’t include a path to citizenship. It’s simply about using immigrants to drive labor prices down and then sending them on their way back home. Unions too, will reject the idea of guest workers, and fight against the plan at all cost. However, should Prop. 32 pass and cripple its ability to fund-raise for political purposes, there will be little labor can do.
Gloria Romero: “Isn’t She Great!”
With the event ending, I flag down Loewen.
“Mr. Loewen, I have to ask: How did you get a liberal like Gloria Romero to front for Prop. 32? That was really a stroke of genius.”