The Schenectady County Republican Committee paid legal and postage expenses associated with efforts to take over the county Conservative Committee and oust its leadership, according to a recent financial filing.
The effort widened an existing rift between the two political parties, with the chairman of the Conservatives calling for the ouster of Republican Chairman Tom Buchanan.
“They shouldn’t support him, considering that their own chairman would do that and take votes away,” said Conservative Committee Chairman Randy Pascarella.
He said the Conservative committee will no longer work with Buchanan in elections but would still work with Republican candidates on endorsements. “That would not be fair to the voters of Schenectady County because Tom Buchanan has no character. It’s not fair to some good candidate who could do good for our county,” Pascarella said.
Buchanan did not return a phone call for comment.
The Republican committee’s post primary financial disclosure lists two key expenses: $1,610, for postage and $2,500 in legal fees to Thomas Spargo. Both expenses are dated Sept. 3. The primary was Sept. 9.
Spargo appeared in state Supreme Court in August to assist Kelly Rhinesmith and her Conservative Reform Caucus in challenging designating petitions filed by the county Conservative committee’s leadership. Spargo, a former Albany County judge, is one of the state’s top election law attorneys, Pascarella said.
The caucus and its allies also mailed six fliers to 2,700 Conservatives in the county, spent several days delivering literature door to door and made automated phone calls to Conservatives, reminding them about the primary.
Conservative Committee Chairman Pascarella estimates Rhinesmith, Republicans or both spent some $40,000 on the effort to wrest control from the current leadership. He cited costs for six mailings, other campaign material and legal costs; more financial filings are pending.
Pascarella said the Conservative committee hired private investigators to determine who spent the money and where it came from. “We will investigate this until we get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Rhinesmith’s caucus needed 128 of the 250 seats to gain a majority and the committee, which would have allowed it to appoint new leaders.
“We spotted them 52 and we still ended up with 198 seats. They won zero in the primary,” Pascarella said. Conservatives re-elected executive committee members Monday, including Pascarella.
Pascarella said he was not surprised to learn county Republicans assisted Rhinesmith. “We knew that from the beginning,” he said.
Rhinesmith, however, consistently denied county Republicans assisted her and said that she and her caucus paid all their own expenses. In a July interview, she said: “We have been doing this for a long time and we have financed all of our efforts ourselves. Conservatives will dig into their own pockets to fund a cause.”
Rhinesmith did not return a phone call for comment. She said she will not speak with The Daily Gazette, calling its coverage biased against her and toward Democrats.
After its primary victory, the Conservative committee wasted no time in cleaning house. It ousted Rhinesmith from the executive committee, where she had been recording secretary. She was re-elected to her seat on the Conservative Committee.
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