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Group of business leaders hoping to raise $200K to influence local elections

Group of business leaders hoping to raise $200K to influence local elections

A small network of Rochester business leaders are hoping to have a big impact on the upcoming city council elections.

The influential group, made up of familiar names like John Wade and Andy Chafoulias, want to form a nonprofit organization that will allow donors to "confidentially impact" local elections this November.

According to an internal memo obtained by the Med City Beat, the organization hopes to raise $200,000 for their causes. It will operate as a 501(c)(4) — also known as "social welfare" organization — allowing it to raise and spend an unlimited amount of money on political activities and lobbying without publicly revealing the identities of its donors.

The memo, addressed by Chafoulias in early July, says the organization is "ready to go" and "just needs the resources" to get started. The 501(c)(4) will "allow you to privately make a donation to support the election of candidates to the city council," he says. The memo does not mention which causes or candidates the group would support or if it would be exclusive to council elections.

Under the plan, the leadership of the committee would be made up of Wade, Patrick Sexton, John Beatty and David Pederson. The latter two individuals are lawyers at Dunlap & Seeger which, according to the memo, would handle the collection of donations for the organization.

Beatty, Pederson and Wade did not respond Monday to requests for comment. Contact information was not available for Sexton.

Chafoulias declined to speak with us directly, though a spokesperson for his office said he is "aware of this 501(c)(4) organization but has not written a contribution check to it and is not part of it."

Here's the rest of that statement:

He did hold a social gathering to encourage upcoming voting in a general sense to many of his friends that happen to be prominent leaders. The 501(c)(4) organization was casually mentioned at the gathering by others, but Andy is not associated with that organization. He is encouraging people to support the election process in Rochester, but he is not going to personally support any of the candidates because of his development focuses and various businesses in Rochester. 

There are four city council seats up for grabs on Nov. 8: Wards Two, Four and Six, as well as council president. Realtor Scott Hoss is challenging incumbent Michael Wojcik for Ward 2; Entrepreneur Nick Moucha is running against incumbent Mark Bilderback in Ward 4; there are three candidates — Nick Carter, Patrick "PJ" Day and Annalissa Johnson — vying to fill Sandra Means' Ward 6 seat; and businessman Sean Allen is challenging current president Randy Staver for the only at-large council seat on this year's ballot.

Because there are three candidates for Ward 6, a primary will be held on Aug. 9. A candidate forum for the ward is scheduled for Thursday at the library.

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