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
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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