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Watching the dollars make sense

Campaign finance reports are in, designating petitions are filed, and county executive candidate Paul Clark is on the air. Spring training is over -- Politics Season is under way:

* County executive hopeful and veteran former Mayor Jim Griffin brought lots of signatures to the Board of Elections last week in his attempt to make the ballot. Unfortunately for him, he brought no money.

Campaign finance reports indicate he has neither raised nor spent anything, casting doubt on the seriousness of his candidacy at this point. But Hizzoner says he will begin raising funds soon, and there is no question he is generating more than just curiosity among most voters.

And, some things never change. Accompanying Griffin to the board last week was former NFTA Commissioner Ron Anthony -- at the former mayor's side for every one of his post-City Hall comeback efforts.

* Tops on the summer reading list of New York's political junkies is not the latest Washington thriller, but the State Board of Elections web site -- www.elections.state.ny.us. On it you can peruse the campaign finance disclosures of all your favorite politician characters and from where their money comes.

* One of the interesting factoids stemming from those reports includes County Executive Joel Giambra's still potent treasury -- just shy of $800,000. He remains too radioactive to drop much on area pols, but consider this: the interest alone on Giambra's campaign fund amounted to $38,000 in the first half of this year.

And that means Joel Giambra and his campaign money will remain a potent political force for many years to come.

* Speaking of former pols and their money, the reports show former Mayor Tony Masiello dropped $5,000 on his old Democratic friends in the State Senate, $5,450 on the Erie County Democratic Committee, and $5,000 on Democratic county executive candidate Jim Keane.

But Masiello, now a lobbyist, saved his heftiest donation -- $10,000 -- for the re-election fund already established by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

* Here's one that Clark, who lost the Democratic endorsement for county executive to Keane, probably wishes he had back: $5,000 to the Erie County Democratic Committee back in February, when he perceived the process as "fluid."

* Speaking of Democratic Headquarters, it's obvious that Mayor Byron Brown and Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan often march down different paths. Lenihan supports the County Court candidacy of Judge Tim Franczyk, while Brown accompanied City Judge Jim McLeod to file his petitions at the board last week.

* Republican Legislator Barry Weinstein has discovered the wrath of Erie County Independence Chairman Tony Orsini, after Weinstein removed Franczyk from Independence petitions he circulated for Amherst Town Council. Orsini says Weinstein was playing favorites for Republican County Court candidate Molly Gondek Musarra, and now won't get the Independence line after all.

"When you accept our line," Orsini said, "you accept all that goes with it."

Weinstein said he circulated for other Democrats on the Independence line, but was advised to cross off Franczyk if he wanted to gather signatures for Musarra.

"I'm not used to be being yelled and screamed at," he said of his encounter with the chairman.

* Former Ambassador to Malta Tony Gioia was invited to the White House last week for breakfast with first lady Laura Bush and Italian-American supporters of President Bush. Gioia reports the invitation came from Nick Sinatra, the Buffalo native and St. Joe's graduate who is the president's Northeast political director and who telephoned from Air Force One.

"I've been around for a while and it takes a lot for me to be impressed," Gioia said. "I was impressed."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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