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Saratoga Today (published weekly)

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Friday
Aug042017

$10,000 for GOP adviser, a felon

Decision to pay consultants draws criticism from some in Saratoga County party

By Wendy Liberatore

In a series of fundraisers this month and next, the Saratoga County Republican Committee is asking its membership to dole out the dollars.

But some in the party believe the money is better spent on local candidates and not — as financial disclosures show — on consultants who include a felon and a state GOP employee.

Reports filed at the state Board of Elections show that in 2017 the county committee paid $10,000 to Francis Thomas Disonell, who spent two years in jail for mortgage fraud, and another $32,000 to the state GOP Political Director Jim Thompson.

“That’s a lot of money,” said John Arpey, campaign treasurer for John Safford, who is the Republican candidate for Saratoga Springs supervisor. “What are we getting for that money? We need the state party to be supporting us, not the other way around. They should support the local parties and their candidates. If they don’t, they will lose the local parties.”

The filings listed Disonell and his company, Targeted Sharing LLC, located from a home at 632 Route 146 A in Clifton Park, as a video consultant. Disonell pleaded guilty in 2007 to mortgage fraud that led to a sentence of two years. At the time of his sentencing, prosecutors said Disonell and his partner, Matthew J. Kupic, were the ring leaders of a scheme that defrauded 24 banks and lending institutions out of $2 million. The plan, involving 54 properties, mostly in Albany and Troy, was accomplished by recruiting complicit lawyers, appraisers and buyers.

Thompson, who lives in Washington County, is listed as a consultant in the filings too. He has been paid $4,000 a month since December 2016. The first two payments to Thompson were hidden in the committee’s housekeeping account. Disclosure forms also show that Thompson takes home more than $63,000 a year from the state GOP.

Spokesman for the Saratoga County GOP Nick Wilock said that Committee Chair Steve Bulger did not know that Disonell was a felon. He did say that Disonell is creating a video for some of the county candidates and that it’s a costly venture. As for Thompson, Wilock said he was hired as a general campaign consultant.

In a written statement, Bulger defended the payments.

“Targeted Sharing LLC is a reputable firm with prior success for the New York Republican State Committee, President Trump’s New York campaign and other races around the state,” Bulger stated. “Their consulting, digital platform, and issue and candidate advocacy work will help our candidates win in Saratoga County, where we’re facing more than 25 competitive elections this year.”

As for Thompson, he said, “Jim Thompson is one of the most experienced campaign professionals in the state of New York. The Saratoga County Republican Committee is fortunate to have his knowledge and experience guiding our candidates and county party to achieve our common goal: winning. Jim is consulting and actively engaged with many of the 113 Republican candidates running county wide this November.”

Bulger would not disclose if the men will stay on the party payroll because he “does not discuss personnel, staffing or strategy decisions.”

A campaign manager for a local Republican candidate who does not want to be identified for fear of losing funding from the county committee said their campaign has not been notified of any video or campaign assistance from either Disonell or Thompson. In addition, they have not received any funding from the county committee because they were told it was “too early to run.” But since the Democrats are hitting the pavement, going door-to-door, the campaign manager’s candidate must do the same.

“Our candidates have been out there working hard,” the campaign manager said. “They could use the funds.”

The campaign manager is unhappy that local candidates are told to wait for funding, while Thompson gets his monthly check. By November, the campaign manger pointed out, he could have earned a full-year of payments or $48,000, from the county committee.

Meanwhile, the Saratoga County GOP is seeking to refill its coffers with more fundraising events. Thursday is the Chairman’s Club Summer Picnic at Spa State Park and Friday is a reception for Saratoga Springs mayoral candidate Mark Baker at a private home in the city.