All campaign, all the time

The San Diego County Lincoln Club had mixed results in the November elections. Its heavy spending helped to easily oust Democratic city attorney Mike Aguirre. But some political insiders say that the club — composed of wealthy Republicans and corporations that eschew taking positions on controversial social issues such as abortion and gay marriage in favor of electing pliable pro-development officeholders — spent too much money against Aguirre and not enough on the GOP’s council candidates, Phil Thalheimer and April Boling. Both went down to narrow defeats, resulting in a solid Democratic council majority. But that hasn’t dimmed the fervor of the club’s big corporate benefactors, who even after the election have continued to contribute large sums.

Postelection cash often comes from special interests whose contributions might prove embarrassing while campaigns are in progress. Political groups such as the Lincoln Club operate as campaign revolving funds, which pool and bank contributions for use at a time and for a purpose that is determined by a board of directors. It is illegal for donors to earmark contributions to the club for any particular candidate or issue.

A recently filed disclosure statement covering the period from October 19 through the end of last year shows that oil giant Chevron Corporation of San Ramon gave $10,000 on November 24. Otay Project, L.P., the big Chula Vista developer, gave $5000 on November 3. A company called DEI LLC of Vista gave $5000 on December 8. And on December 15, Sempra Energy gave $5000, bringing its total for 2008 to $117,500.

Back in November, Aguirre attacked the big utility for its Lincoln Club contributions, alleging that the funds were used by the club in its campaign against him, which featured hit pieces and an anonymous website. Sempra later maintained that it “understood” that its money had been dedicated to the club’s campaign against Prop 7, an energy-related proposal opposed by the utility, and in favor of Prop 11, a legislative redistricting measure.

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