Look for Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano to announce the formation of a non-profit committee, organized under what is known as the 527 tax code, and dedicated to the proposition that government in New York State is completely out of control.
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Last week, Golisano announced his resignation from his $1.1 million-a-year job as president and CEO of Paychex, the company he founded with $3,000 and grew into a $1.3 billion corporation. While some have speculated he is planning yet another run for governor, sources told the Reporter that his plan calls for nothing less than the complete redesign of the way government does business in the state.
Among his first targets are said to be Gov. George Pataki, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Charles Gargano, the well-heeled Republican fund-raiser who controls the Empire State Development Corp.
Under federal tax law, 527 organizations are permitted to raise unlimited funding for "public advocacy" campaigning, but are forbidden from working with individual candidates for office.
Examples of 527s include the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has spent millions attempting to besmirch John Kerry's war record, and MoveOn.org -- funded largely by billionaire George Soros -- which has purchased large blocks of television advertising in key battleground states critical of George Bush's Iraq and economic policies.
Golisano has reportedly enlisted former Erie County Democratic chairman Steve Pigeon to help him in his new endeavor. Pigeon, who had been serving as a top aide to state Sen. Byron Brown, left that position following an acrimonious dispute with the senator a few weeks ago.
Pigeon has the reputation of being the top political operative in Western New York. In addition to his chairmanship and his work in getting Brown elected, he was a major player in the campaign of Rep. Dick Gephardt during the Democratic presidential primaries and is now reportedly heading for Gephardt's home state of Missouri, where he'll play a major role in getting out the vote for Sen. Kerry.
Over the years, Pigeon has also taken some principled positions that put him squarely at odds with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and its allies at the Buffalo News. This gives him even more in common with Golisano. The Partnership and the News vehemently opposed Golisano's purchase last year of the Buffalo Sabres hockey franchise, instead promoting the bid of Partnership insider Mark Hamister.
Hamister's deal fell through, largely because he didn't have any money of his own and was unable to put together a package of government grants and loans to pull it off. Golisano stepped in and bought the team with his own money, a somewhat novel approach in this neck of the woods.
A founder of the state Independence Party who has run for governor three times, Golisano said he had no plans to sell the Sabres despite the fact that a lockout may in effect cancel the 2004 season.
"My role at the Buffalo Sabres is right now enthusiastic, and I'm hoping we get around to playing," he said.
Likewise, he added, he would stay on as Paychex Chairman of the Board and has no plans to sell his 10.3 percent stake in the publicly traded company.
Few are as familiar as Golisano with the difficulties of doing business in New York State. Laboring under the highest taxes in the country, businesses large and small are affected by laws that allow the state Legislature to pass regulations without the benefit of public hearing or discussion and by the power of the governor, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker to effectively veto legislation prior to a vote.
The fact that the state has been unable to pass a budget on time for the past 20 years speaks for itself.
Pataki, Bruno and Silver share little in common beyond their contempt for the average, working New Yorker they prey upon like the parasites they are. Even more contemptible is Gargano, a gigolo who's parlayed his ability to wheedle campaign contributions out of his society friends into a career as the state's most powerful non-elected official. Every day he spends more than many here earn in a year.
And this isn't about being a Republican or a Democrat. Bums like these use party affiliation the way most of us use our automobiles, as vehicles to get them to work so they can collect their money. The only decision they ever made was which group of suckers they wanted to shake down. While the Republicans are wealthier on an individual basis, there are a lot more Democrats.
Tom Golisano is a breath of fresh air: a self-made billionaire who's never been a part of any old-boy's network, a guy who's spent millions of his own money to effect change.
With any luck at all, the organization he plans on founding will accomplish what his three bids for the governorship did not -- evening up the playing field for those of us still willing to invest in the future of New York.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Oct. 12 2004|