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Tom Golisano finances effort to block third term for Bloomberg

By A. James Memmott

October 21, 2008 at 10:19am

Who says the economy is in the tank?

There are at least two billionaires willing to spend and spend and spend in these perilous financial times.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, who has a net worth of $20 billion, reportedly has said he’ll use up to $100 million on a re-re-election campaign if he and the City Council can get around the law that bars him from seeking a third term.

And then on Monday, B. Thomas Golisano, a man said to be worth $1.7 billion, announced that he’ll use his money to help prevent the council from making another term for Bloomberg possible.

Golisano, who lives in suburban Rochester, NY, made it clear he considers Bloomberg to be an excellent mayor.

However, Golisano believes that the issue of changing the term-limit law should be put to the voters.

“The people have the right and deserve the opportunity to make the decision,” Golisano said at a news conference. “No matter how great a job he (Bloomberg) has done, the people in the end must make the decision on this term limits issue.”

The Golisano move came not long after Bloomberg seemed to have landed another billionaire, Ronald S. Lauder, in his corner.

Lauder, a cosmetics heir who has supported term limits, had agreed to back the Bloomberg maneuver for a third term.

However, Lauder told The New York Times that council members now in their first term should not be allowed to extend their own possible service beyond the current two-term limit.

Lauder’s position on this issue could weaken the resolve of council members on the term-limit issue, the Times reported. The council has not set a vote on the matter, though it could come later this week, the paper reported.

Golisano said that his money would be spent on advertisements supporting a referendum on term limits.

He also said he might back opponents of council members who voted for a change in the rules to allow Bloomberg a chance to seek re-election next year.

Told of Golisano’s actions, Bloomberg reacted calmly.

“If he spends a lot of money in New York City, I think it’s wonderful,” Bloomberg said, as reported by the Times. “The advertising business isn’t that good at the moment.”

Golisano, 66, made his fortune through Paychex Inc., a payroll processing company he founded in 1971.

He has run unsuccessfully for governor three times as an Independence Party candidate.

In July of this year, he donated $5 million to create Responsible New York, a political action committee that funds candidates for the New York state legislature, regardless of party.

As the Times also reported, money from Responsible New York this campaign season has put into play several usually safe Republican legislative seats in western New York.

In several races, the PAC has backed Democratic challengers in their campaigns against Republican incumbents.

Golisano, who owns the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey league, also has given more than $100 million dollars to charities and institutions.

Earlier this month, he donated $10 million to Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY, the largest donation in the university’s history.

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