O’Donnell mentioned in Buffalo News’ Politics Column

The Buffalo News : Opinion

12/14/08

Revolving through the inner circles

Bob McCarthy

Some political news, notes and observations for a cold December Sunday:

Anyone who doubts Tom Golisano and his gazillions of dollars won’t prove players in New York politics still believes in Santa Claus. Though the deal eventually fell apart, the Buffalo Sabres owner was smack dab in the middle of negotiations that installed Malcolm Smith of Queens as Senate majority leader.

We’re talking “in the room” negotiations here, with political adviser Steve Pigeon right by his side.

As far as New York’s pols are concerned, forget about Santa. Golisano has lots more money.

According to Pigeon, the Rochester billionaire’s entire agenda is all about reviving upstate’s lagging economy.

He has assurances from Malcolm Smith that his priorities will be the priorities of upstate and Western New York,” Pigeon said. “And Tom will be in his kitchen cabinet.”

Whether it’s Smith or someone else at the Senate helm, it seems a good bet Golisano is intent on being part of the process. Ditto last summer, when he showed up at the Democratic National Convention with $1 million, and was granted instant access to the top Democrats in the land.

Speaking of inner circles, check out Golisano’s guest list for dinner and hockey with former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday: Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic chairman; Gary Parenti, Pigeon’s longtime associate; Niagara Falls attorney John Bartolomei; businessman Hormoz Mansouri; former Buffalo Comptroller Anthony Nanula; and political consultant Jack O’Donnell.

Also invited to the dinner were Mayor Byron Brown, Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and Niagara Falls Council President Sam Furscione. All are official FOGs — Friends of Golisano.

The guess here is that Caroline Kennedy’s name has survived and prospered in the mythical land of Political Speculation because there may be something to reports she will replace Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton in the U. S. Senate. She has her own money, access to money and universal name recognition.

But events in far-away Illinois may play out in New York, too. Some observers believe that David Paterson, the state’s first African- American governor and a champion of minorities, may recognize the need for at least one black to serve in the Senate following the departure of President-elect Barack Obama.

With Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s name implicated in the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, it’s conceivable Paterson could turn to Brown if he feels a pressing need for an African-American.

And did we mention the mayor is an official FOG?

Then again, the mayor is not exactly basking in power these days. His candidates got whacked in the last Council elections, he took a beating in some committee races in September and his candidate for zone chairman in his own Masten turf failed just a few weeks ago. This occurred, according to reports, after the mayor personally made the nomination.

Give credit to Rep. Steve Israel. The Democrat is fully aware that Western New York is committed to either Rep. Brian Higgins or Brown to succeed Clinton in the Senate. But the Long Islander is slated to be in town this week to make the rounds and state his case.

Attorney Ray Walter continues to rank as the top candidate for appointment to the County Legislature as Republican Mike Ranzenhofer heads to Albany and the Senate. GOP leaders in Clarence and Newstead have now given him their nod.

The politics Column will take off a few weeks to rest up and lick our wounds after a long — and most interesting — campaign season, but not before wishing holiday greetings to all those nice enough to visit this space each week.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com