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Politics

Crist Cozies Up to New York Billionaire

July 15, 2010 - 6:00pm

As part of his outreach for contributions and counsel as an independent U.S. Senate candidate, Gov. Charlie Crist recently had a tete-a-tete with New York billionaire Tom Golisano.
Golisano is no stranger to independent politics, having run for governor in New York three times. He campaigned on the New York Independence Party ticket each time.

Laureen Oliver, former state chairman of the Independence Party, now lives in the Orlando area and reportedly set up the meeting.

Reached by phone in New York, Galisano confirmed to Sunshine State News that he and Crist met in Southwest Florida.

Galisano, who owns the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, has established his residence in Naples. Like fellow billionaire Rush Limbaugh, Galisano left New York to avoid onerous tax increases in that state, though he still spends much of his summers there.

Founder of Paychex, a Rochester-based payroll company, Golisano ran for governor of New York in 1994, 1998 and 2002 with the Independence Party, which he also founded. He reportedly spent a total of $93 million in those three unsuccessful campaigns.

Galisano would neither confirm nor deny that Crist asked for or received a campaign contribution at their meeting.

Crist spokeswoman Michelle Todd did not respond to a message left by Sunshine State News.

Golisano and Paychex, the second largest payroll processing firm in the country, were sued in 2007 for allegedly plotting to take over a competitor's business "by vaporizing the software that was their economic lifeline," according to court documents.

A California jury ordered Golisano and his firm to pay $26 million in damages.

The Naples-based Ave Maria University, founded by Dominos owner and Catholic conservative Tom Monaghan, has honored Golisano and named a campus building after him.

But Golisano has also taken non-Catholic positions in the political arena. Over the past two years, the billionaire has endorsed and donated to NARAL-supported pro-choice candidates in state and federal elections.

In 1985, with an initial gift of $90,000, Golisano launched the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation. Today, with assets of $25 million, the foundation awards grants to organizations dedicated to providing opportunities for those with developmental disabilities and offering support to their families.

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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