A political party
Naturally, clambakes in Cleveland could have their political inclinations, going by former mayor Ralph J. Perk's papers at the WRHS Research Library. In 1967, the then-Cuyahoga County Auditor had a sizable election deficit from the previous year that he was trying to reduce by holding "card parties and other functions" -- for instance, a clambake. The Friends of Perk Committee sent out hard tickets to the bake with a letter referencing how much he still had to raise ($9,887.50, down from $21,000) that also touted how Perk was "one of the few public officials in modern times who refuses to have a 2% kick-back fund from his employees to pay his expenses."
The strategy was brilliant: judging by the stack of responses from law firms, banks, and individuals, many people who regretfully couldn't attend often donated money to Perk's cause anyway and also sent back tickets -- which could be given away to other people, especially senior citizens, so they could attend.
For example, one handwritten note on letterhead for Mrs. Gilbert W. Humphrey read: "Enclosed are the tickets to the clam bake on September 16th which we will be unable to attend. Also enclosed is a check to cover same, as a donation. Perhaps you will want to give the returned tickets to some friends of the Republican Party -- I hope so!!"
According to meticulous records, Perk kept up the clambake for years to come, and turned it into an annual fundraiser for his various political campaigns. In 1970, the Friends of Ralph J. Perk Committee sent out tickets with a not-so-subtle bit of messaging: "You will show your appreciation to Mr. Perk for his continuing devotion to public service and his excellent record as County Auditor by properly distributing the enclosed tickets to your many friends. If you desire more tickets they are available, and we will appreciate any additional effort to make this an even greater success than in previous years."
And a 1971 bake in advance of his successful mayoral run was promoted with a more sanguine nudge: "As you know, Ralph Perk is a candidate for mayor of Cleveland this year, and the support of his friends is greatly needed in his campaign to bring experience and integrity back to this city."