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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 8, 2009

Nelligan has raised $20K
Dems have 10 times the GOP funds

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Republican challengers in this well-heeled suburban town are facing an uphill financial battle as they try to unseat Democratic incumbents. The Democratic Committee has more than 10 times the campaign funds.

However, individual candidates have raised funds on their own. Matthew Nelligan, making his first run for town board on the Republican line, has raised the most — $20,000 — while incumbent Democrat Paul Pastore raised less than $500, and newcomer David Fraterrigo, a Conservative running on the GOP line, has no contributions.  

“Unfortunately, in order to run an effective campaign, you have to get your name out, and it’s extremely expensive,” said Ted Danz, chairman of the Guilderland Republican Committee.

According to the New York State Board of Elections financial disclosure reports, the Guilderland Republicans general fund contains $1,071.43. The Guilderland Democrats have more than ten times that amount, at $10,185.31.

Just as there are gaps between the amounts of money raised by the two committees, there are large differences in the funds obtained by individual candidates— ranging from under $500 to over $20,000. Personal donations make up a large portion of the contributions for all those involved, but most have also held or plan to hold at least one fund-raiser.

The Democratic incumbent supervisor, Kenneth Runion, is making his sixth run for the position, with over $11,000 raised. Runion said he has a campaign finance committee, and holds an annual fund-raiser.

“There is no public financing for local candidates, so people are left to their own devices,” said Runion. “All the candidates I’ve ever known go out and get private funding.”

Runion’s challenger, Peter Golden, expressed concern that incumbents were engaging in illegal “pay-to play,” by accepting contributions from corporations and offering them contracts with the town in exchange for the money.

Several businesses that have performed services for the town made campaign contributions to Runion, but he said that he had not solicited any funding throughout the course of the campaign; individuals and corporations donated of their own volition, or through his fund-raiser, he said.

“The amount you can receive from any single entity is limited by the Campaign Financing Law, so that people can’t take advantage of candidates,” Runion said.

The law dictates that candidates can receive up to a nickel for every 1,000 registered voters; in Guilderland, that formula results in a maximum contribution of $1,167 from a single entity.

Some of the local business to contribute to Runion’s campaign include:

— Developer Jeff Thomas’s WeatherGuard roofing. Thomas is the developer responsible for the Brandle Meadows senior housing development, on Brandle Road, in Guilderland, just outside of Altamont. He also has plans for a large senior housing complex off of Route 20 in Guilderland;

— Wein, Young, Fenton & Kelsey, a Guilderland law firm;

— Galesi Group, which owns the Northeastern Industrial Park in Guilderland Center;

— Stuyvesant Plaza; and,

— Vanguard-Fine, LLC, a commercial real-estate business for which Kenneth Brownell, a member of the new zoning review committee, is the managing director.

Golden, an author who is not enrolled in a party but is running on the GOP line, said he was very careful to avoid anything that could be interpreted as “pay-to-play.”

“You would hate to think anyone would accept a contribution for doing business with the town,” said Golden. “People support what I’m doing, but I don’t have any favors to offer,” he added.

Golden said he did not hold any fund-raisers, and did not go door-to-door asking for contributions.

“I started campaigning around the time when people were having to pay college tuition, their property taxes were coming due, their school taxes were coming due, there were clothes for kids and books and everything, and I didn’t want to burden people,” said Golden.

Despite not holding any official fund-raising events, Golden was able to raise over $14,000 for his campaign. Many of the contributors were friends and family members, and other funds came from individuals or businesses that support his platform.

Businesses and individuals that showed support for Golden include:

— Prime Management, a real estate company based in Cohoes that has real-estate ties in the Guilderland area;

— Several members of the Lia family; William Lia owns the 20 Mall on Western Avenue;

— Paul Goldman, a local attorney, a member of the law firm Segel, Goldman, Mazzotta & Siegel, representing 20 Mall in its recent challenge of its property assessment;

— Morton Funger, a principal of Ralmor Corporation, a real estate development company, and chairman of the Board of Community Realty Co., in Washington, DC. Funger is one of the biggest Democratic fund-raisers in the nation, and a friend of Golden’s; and

 — Bruce Davis, of Oregon, chairman and chief executive officer of Digimarc, a company that focuses on intuitive computing and media management, with whom Golden used to work.

Funds for board races

Runion and Golden had different strategies for raising thousands of dollars, but Republican Matthew Nelligan out-raised them both, receiving over $20,000 in contributions.

“Raising money for campaigning is sort of a necessary evil in politics,” Nelligan said.

Nelligan held several fund-raisers, including a concert and a cocktail party, but said he also had quite a few small, individual donors, including many family members.

The contributors include:

— Prime Management, the Cohoes-based real-estate company that also donated to Golden;

— Hair of the Dog, a popular Irish folk band based in upstate New York. The band has played at the annual Irish Fest, which Nelligan has helped organize. The Irish Fest used to take place at the Altamont fairgrounds;

— J Luk Construction Company, a commercial contracting company in Schenectady; and,

— American Concert and Entertainment Services Inc, in Troy.

Of the two Democratic incumbents vying to keep their spots on the town board, Patricia Slavick has received the greater amount of contributions, at just over $6,000. Slavick said she held one fund-raiser, an after-work event, and mainly received individual donations, with very few businesses contributing.

Slavick’s contributors include:

— WeatherGuard roofing, Jeff Thomas’s company;

— Wein, Young, Fenton & Kelsey, the law firm used by the town in the Murley case;

— Richard Sherwood, the town’s attorney;

— Friends of Mike Breslin; and,

— McEneny for Assembly.

Incumbent Paul Pastore has just two contributions filed, totaling just over $450; both come from Friends of Ken Runion. Pastore could not be reached for comment.

David Fraterrigo, a Conservative making his first run for town board, on the Republican ticket, has no contributions filed with the state’s board of elections. He could not be reached for comment.

Judge’s finances

Fund-raising is a bit more complicated for candidates running for town justice. The Office of Court Administrations has strict rules governing their campaign fund-raising, to avoid impropriety.

Denise Randall, the Democratic incumbent, said fund-raising is a necessary part of any campaign.

“You have to be sensitive to the reality that you don’t want to create a conflict of interest; you don’t even want to create the appearance of the slightest conflict of interest,” Randall said.

For that reason, town justice candidates have individuals or committees that handle their campaign finances. Randall, who has received over $9,500, said her committee held a fund-raiser in June, but she was fastidious about making sure she did not know who had contributed, or how much. She said she did not look at the disclosure reports available online.

Christopher Aldrich, making his first run for town justice on the Republican ticket, said he has a treasurer to handle his campaign funds.

Aldrich said he sent out fund-raising letters, held a fund-raiser at his home for local individuals, and held an event especially for attorneys, in Albany. He said he will hold another event for attorneys in October.

“I don’t know who specifically is contributing,” said Aldrich, who has raised just over $3,000.

Common purpose

Although all of the candidates have raised varying amounts, using a number of different methods, the expenditures seem to have one common purpose — gaining name and platform recognition.

Most, if not all, of the candidates, for both parties, have spent their funds on lawn signs, pamphlets, palm cards, and literature.

According to Runion, the most expensive part of campaigning is the mailings — the costs add up quickly for printing, and especially postage. Runion said it could be anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 for each mailing, and that he would do a minimum of two mailings during the campaign season.

For Nelligan, lawn signs were a big expense. In August, he told The Enterprise he estimated spending anywhere from $1,600 to $2,000 on 500 signs.

For Democratic incumbents, the cost of lawn signs was not as high; Runion and Randall both said they re-used signs from previous years.

Holding a fund-raiser costs money, too, said Aldrich. He said he spent roughly a third or a quarter of the amount of money that he received from a fund-raiser just to hold an event.

In the past two months, residents of Guilderland have received multiple political robo-calls — one about flooding on Western Avenue, and two different surveys on current town government. Robo-calls are automated phone calls with political messages that are not regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Robo-calls can be costly, but the chairs of both the Republican and Democratic parties said none of their candidates were responsible for the calls.

With less than a month left to go before the Nov. 3 general election, candidates said the spending isn’t over, and mailings and literature would continue its distribution.

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