SANTA ANA — The Lincoln Club, Orange County's influential organization of rich Republican political activists, announced Friday that it opposes Measure R and will give $5,000 to the Citizens Against the Tax Increase.
The decision, while expected, provides momentum for opponents of the sales-tax increase as they press their fund-raising effort in the six weeks left before the June 27 special election.
Although the No on Measure R forces were 20 percentage points ahead in a Times Orange County Poll taken in early April, their challenge is to match the fund-raising and organization of Citizens for Economic Progress--Yes on Measure R coalition, which is launching its first mailers next week. The backing of the Lincoln Club, a 325-member organization composed largely of entrepreneurs and millionaires, is a step in that direction.
Doy Henley, Lincoln Club president, called Measure R "a far-reaching issue" for the county and described the organization's vote Friday morning at the Santa Ana Country Club as overwhelmingly against the ballot question.
The club will send fund-raising letters to its members, asking them to back Citizens Against the Tax Increase, which opposes the half-cent sales tax. About 60 members of the club attended the breakfast event and were polled by voice on the issue. Afterward a number of members immediately pledged contributions to defeat the tax. Originally, only the 25 members of the board of directors were to vote.
Frank Greinke, Lincoln Club member and co-chairman of the No on Measure R committee, said his group is under pressure to move quickly to maintain the automatic lead an anti-tax group has in the county.
"This will be a down-and-dirty campaign because it is such a short cycle," he said, speaking of the expected barrage and counter-barrage of mailers that will reach the county's voters between now and June 27. Measure R opponents expect to spend about $300,000 in their campaign and begin mailings in two weeks.
Reaction to the Lincoln Club vote from the proponents of the sales tax was mixed.
Tom Malcolm, a lawyer and vice president of the Lincoln Club, called the decision "very important. The Lincoln Club carries an enormous amount of weight and influence. This is absolutely an enormous boost to the No cause."
Malcolm also is a co-chairman, along with Sheriff Brad Gates and others, of Citizens for Economic Progress--Yes on Measure R. He expressed frustration with the vote of his colleagues in the Lincoln Club.
"I perceive a subconscious agenda among many people who are so disgusted with county government that they want to see meltdown," he said. "There are a whole host of reasons that my brethren don't want to come to grips with this. They don't want to deal with logic. They want to vent their frustration."
Stu Mollrich, the political consultant coordinating the Yes on Measure R campaign, said he does not "expect that because the board voted this way that all of these people are going to give vast sums of money to the No campaign."
Mollrich said some of the Lincoln Club's most prominent members, including Gary Hunt of the Irvine Co., George Argyros of Arnel Development Co., Christine Diemer of the Building Industry Assn. and Malcolm, are backing the tax.
Mollrich said the Yes on Measure R side will spend up to $3 million to fund its campaign, which will send direct mail to nearly all of the county's 1.2 million voters. The "first wave" of mailings, he said, targets 750,000 voters and will arrive in the next two weeks. Each piece of mail costs about 40 cents.
The postal wars begin this weekend with an initial mailer from the Yes side that will go "to everyone who has kids in school, to the extent we can identify them," Mollrich said.
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