They Used To Be The Republican Party: Now They Are Simply People Purchasing Politicians: Excellent Article From The Gazette

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POLITICAL CLOUT

Nonpartisan PAC could sway Saratoga Springs council races

Organization has raised more than $46,000 since June

By Stephen Williams July 17, 2015

PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ

gazette photos


Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction, right, appears with with Joseph ...

Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction, right, appears with with Joseph Masher, chief operating officer of Bow Tie Cinemas in this photo from Oct. 16, 2013. Bonacio is one of the contributors to the Saratoga Political Action Committee, which has raised more than $46,000 since being formed in June.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Political Action Committee, formed barely a month ago, has already raised more than $46,000 that it can spend to influence this year’s city elections.

The group has raised far more than either the Republican or Democratic parties in the city, according to new filings with the state Board of Elections, putting it in a position to wield financial influence as elections approach.

The major contributors include members of the Dake, Bonacio and Roohan families, all of whom have business interests in the city and long association with the local Republican power structure, though the committee had more than 200 donors.

The entire City Council is up for re-election this year. Four of the five seats are held by Democrats.

The new political action committee was formed in early June by people who feel economic development has been given short-shrift in recent city decisions such as the rejection of a comprehensive plan provision that would have allowed for construction of a golf resort at Saratoga National Golf Course on the city’s East Side, in the “greenbelt.”

“Our goal is to encourage and support a balance between expanding economic opportunity and protecting our environment while enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County,” PAC Chairman Robert Manz said when the committee’s formation was announced.

Manz, chief operating officer of the D.A. Collins Cos. and a city resident, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Not everyone, however, is happy about the PAC.

A petition on the www.change.org website calling for candidates not to accept money from the PAC had 119 signatures as of late Friday.

“PACs are the antithesis of grass-roots civic engagement and Saratoga PAC is an affront to the democratic process,” the organizer says on the website.

While the PAC describes itself as nonpartisan and has Independence and Democratic members, some of the biggest donors have longtime ties to the local GOP. Among them:

– Bill Dake, chairman of Stewart’s Shops, has given $5,000, while his son Gary, president of the company, has donated $520, according to filings.

– Michael and Linda Toohey have given a combined $5,000. Michael Toohey is an attorney who often represents developers before city boards, and represents the Saratoga National resort proposal; his wife is a former vice president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

– Alfio “Sonny” Bonacio, owner of Bonacio Construction, has given $5,050.

– Roohan Realty owner Tom Roohan donated $1,000 each.

– Various corporate entities associated with D.A. Collins Construction have given $6,500.

The DeCrescente beer distribution family of Mechanicville gave $2,500, as did Jeffrey Vukelic, owner of Saratoga Eagle, the Saratoga Springs beverage distributor.

The committee so far has spent just over $3,000, most of it the cost of a June 24 fundraiser at The Stadium Cafe. It has a balance available of more than $43,000.

The money raised by the PAC dwarfs what the regular party committees in the city have raised in the first six months of the year.

The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee raised $7,310 in that time, and has a current fund balance of $4,856.

The city Republican Committee raised $6,739, and has a balance of $6,990.

Political action committees can work outside the political party structure to contribute money directly to candidates or issues they support.

They’re common at the federal and state election level, but this is the first local PAC other than one for the Police Benevolent Association members.

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Disgraceful Behavior Of Head Of Public Defenders Office

Oscar Schrieber was charged with DWI after he allegedly struck a neighbor’s car and also a tree while driving. This video comes from a policeman’s body camera when they went to his home to arrest him.

Updated: Saratoga County lawyer back on payroll after DWI plea

This is the editorial from the Gazette:
Saratoga County public defender should be fired over DWI arrest
June 18, 2015
In 8 minutes and 32 seconds, Oscar Schreiber proved why he’s no longer fit to be Saratoga County’s chief public defender and why he should be fired.
It was during that amount of time, as shown on a police camera recording, that Schreiber demonstrated not only a disregard for the citizens he represents, but for the law he pledged to defend and respect.
Schreiber was arrested in March for driving while intoxicated after he crashed into a parked car, nearly ran over someone in their own driveway and knocked down a lamp post on
Police body camera video details the arrest of Saratoga County Public Defender Oscar Schreiber on drunken-driving and hit-and-run charges after a March 22, 2015, incident in which Schreiber drove over two lawns and hit a lamppost and another car in his Saratoga Springs neighborhood. (Warning: adult language)
His blood alcohol level, measured well after the crash and following his arrest in his home, was found to be 0.20 percent. That’s 2-1/2 times the legal limit for drunk driving. Because of the time elapsed, it was likely higher when he was behind the wheel.
On the surface, it seems like a routine first offense misdemeanor DWI. No one was hurt. He paid a fine. He went to rehab. He does a great job organizing the public defender’s office. Let it go, right?
Not so fast.
Last week, Saratoga Springs police released an 8-minute, 32-second video they shot of two city officers confronting Schreiber in his home shortly after the crash.
It was eye-opening, and not in a good way for Mr. Schreiber.
Most obvious from the video was how completely intoxicated he appeared. He could barely speak, slurring so badly there were times the officers couldn’t understand him. The only way he stayed upright was by bracing himself against a wall. In moving, he staggered. This is a man who only minutes before was behind the wheel of a car.
It gets worse.
In responding to one officer’s questions, Schreiber repeatedly changes his story about how he became so drunk, repeating numerous times that he only had two drinks, that he wasn’t driving, that he got drunk at home and that he did not strike anything with his car — this despite being confronted with an eyewitness account and the officer’s own observations of the crash scene and Schreiber’s vehicle.
He couldn’t even remember the name of the restaurant where he had dinner earlier in the evening.
“I was not driving while intoxicated,” he told officers at one point. “I did not leave the scene of the accident,” he told them at another.
During those 8 minutes and 32 seconds, he repeatedly refused a request by officers to take a field sobriety test — the same test that many of the people he represents in court are required to take upon being confronted with a DWI charge.
Perhaps most damning for his case for keeping his job as an officer of the Saratoga County court was his repeated attempts to use his influential position to try to get out of being arrested
Several times during the 8 minutes and 32 seconds, either he or his wife told officers that he was a lawyer and chief public defender. So in addition to being stone drunk to the point of falling over, he compounded his troubles by trying to use his influence to weasel out of a crime.
Is this the kind of person who should be representing the public in court? Is this the kind of behavior we expect from our public officials? Sure, many people have found themselves in his position, confronted with their own guilt and trying desperately to save their skin.
But a public defender is not an ordinary citizen. He represents not only a profession solely designated to uphold the law, but he serves in a position in which he represents others in a court of law.
How does someone who brazenly and repeatedly lies to police, then resorts to the old, “Do you know who I am?!” line to try to get out of it, continue to hold public office? How do defendants trust him? How do judges? How do other public officials who don’t drive drunk and who don’t defy police and who don’t try to use their positions to influence a police officer turn their backs on that kind of behavior? How does the guy he almost ran over?
It doesn’t matter if he’s sorry. It doesn’t matter if he’s getting help for his problem. As a public official, he violated the public trust, and he should no longer be serving in a taxpayer-funded public position.
Some positive developments came out of that video. The first was the video itself. In all the uproar over police brutality, body and vehicle cameras were largely intended to protect the public when it was a police officer’s word vs. a citizen’s. The cameras were also supposed to serve as a deterrent to officers’ bad behavior, the theory being that they’d be less likely to beat the tar out of someone if a camera was pointed at them.
But this video had the effect of showing officers conducting themselves in an appropriate, lawful, ethical and, frankly, impressive manner. It showed how difficult their jobs can be. And it substantiated the legal case against someone who had clearly committed a crime.
If Saratoga County officials can get through that 8 minutes and 32 seconds and still keep Schreiber on the job, then they’ll be committing their own brand of crime — against the citizens they’ve sworn to serve.