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Local Government Take Back Our Government Chair Arrested on Felony Charges


BRADENTON – Former Sarasota County GOP chairman Bob Waechter, who was also at the front of the attack-ad group Take Back Our Government and served on the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, was charged by the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office with the criminal use of a stolen identity last week. Waechter allegedly purchased a prepaid debit card and used it to make a campaign donation in the name of a prominent Sarasota Republican. Waechter is also currently under investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office for allegations that he improperly identified TBOG robo-calls as coming from the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

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Waechter allegedly purchasing the debit card used in the crime
photo: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

The Sarasota Sheriff's Office said that Waechter made a $200 donation to Sarasota Democrat Keith Fitzgerald's campaign in the name of Lourdes Ramirez, a Sarasota Republican. Fitzgerald, a former state rep., was up against Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) in the race for the 16th District seat. Waechter also allegedly made a $35 donation in Ramirez's name to the campaign of Sarasota Democrat Liz Alpert, who challenged Ray Pilon (R-Sarasota) for the state house.

According to the arrest report, Waechter surrendered to the SCSO on Friday afternoon, after officials had attempted to contact him at his home for questioning earlier in the day. The Sheriff's Office linked the $200 donation to Fitzgerald's campaign to a computer at Waechter's business, RWR Installations. The prepaid debit card Waechter used was then traced to a local convenience store, where surveillance tape appears to show Waechter purchasing the card.

The motive seems to be a political tarring of Ramirez, who many see as a likely Republican candidate for the Sarasota County Commission in 2014. Had the fraudulent donations not been noticed, a last-second attack-ad campaign could have alleged that Ramirez had deep ties to big-name Democrats and was a closet liberal. Waechter, who served as head of the Sarasota County Republican Party from 2004-06, is considered to be one of the most powerful Republicans in the area, especially among the Sarasota County Commission, where he reportedly has close business and personal relationships with some of the members.

Waechter was also listed as the chair of Take Back Our Government, a group that was formed to run an attack-ad campaign on Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, who was defeated by developer-backed Betsy Benac in the August Republican primary, in a race that came down to just a few hundred votes. According to records, Take Back Our Government did not officially exist when they ran attack ads against McClash and fellow Commissioner Robin DiSabatino over Memorial Day Weekend of this year.

The group had an application on file with the state that had yet to have been approved. It was listed as "incomplete" at the time. The message in the calls also appear to have failed to meet proper disclosure requirements, a first-degree misdemeanor. TBOG was financed almost exclusively by interests owned by millionaire-developer Carlos Beruff. In the Sarasota County case, Waechter faces third-degree felony charges and there exists the possibility that the Federal Elections Commission could investigate one or both incidents.


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