A Rocky Mountain News report about Denver belatedly hitting its $40.6 million fundraising mark for the Democratic National Convention made passing reference to Tom Golisano, identified as "a billionaire from Rochester, N.Y.," who was awarded a luxury box and fifty tickets to Barack Obama's August 28 Invesco Field at Mile High acceptance speech simply for donating $1 million to the cause. Turns out, though, that Golisano's donation was more unusual than it seems at first blush. After all, he's not even a Democrat -- not officially, anyhow.
A New York Times piece revealing Golisano's gift points out that Golisano has run three times for governor of his home state, each time under the banner of the Independence Party. He lost handily on each occasion. Then in 2005, after New York governor George Pataki announced that he wouldn't seek another term in office, Golisano abruptly declared himself to be a Republican and bestowed $50,000 on the party's state senate organization. Yet he's also donated funds to Dems such as John Kerry and Richard Gephardt.
As for his fortune, Golisano built it thanks to the success of Paychex, a payroll-service firm he started in 1971 "with $3,000 and a credit card," according to a Forbes item listing him among the world's richest people. Still, his wealth hasn't protected him from criticism by fans of the Buffalo Sabres hockey franchise, which he owns. A more recent Forbes article about hockey billionaires (a roster topped by Denver's own Phil Anschutz) notes that some boosters complain that "he has done a poor job of managing the Sabres' payroll. The team lost a string of talented core players through free agency, and its record clearly shows the effects. Last year, the Sabres won 53 games, more than any other team in the league. This year, the Sabres are fourth out of the five teams in their division."
Barack Obama had better hope Golina's money does him more good. -- Michael Roberts