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DA considers claims against Golisano's committee

District Attorney Frank J. Clark said Tuesday he will examine a complaint lodged by a campaign aide to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt alleging improper activity by billionaire B. Thomas Golisano's political committee in last month's primary election.

While he stopped short of promising an investigation, Clark said he has received a complaint lodged by Jeremy C. Toth, who claims Golisano's Responsible New York coordinated its spending efforts with former Council Member at Large Barbra A. Kavanaugh. She unsuccessfully challenged Hoyt in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.

"They sent us a legal argument alleging some sort of coordination between the Golisano committee and the Barbra Kavanaugh campaign," Clark said. "We're certainly going to read the papers. Whether or not it's something we're going to undertake, I don't know."

Toth told The Buffalo News on Aug. 26 that political consultant Jack O'Donnell went directly from Kavanaugh's campaign to Golisano's new organization. At that time, he called that a felony violation of election law that governs unauthorized committees.

"I put together a four-page letter with 20 exhibits," Toth said Tuesday. "And I requested he look into it."

Golisano, owner of the Buffalo Sabres, has pledged to spend up to $5 million on state elections in this campaign season, especially for those who back the kind of reforms he championed during three runs as the Independence Party candidate for governor. Election law waives mandatory spending limits if committees such as Golisano's and the individual candidates do not coordinate their campaigns.

Kavanaugh has denied any connection with the Golisano campaign, which spent about $1.3 million around the state -- mostly in Western New York -- on various candidates. Golisano spokesman G. Steven Pigeon did not return a phone call on Tuesday seeking comment.

Golisano told R News television in Rochester on Sept. 19 that he was contemplating legal action against The News and its chairman, Warren E. Buffett, over stories on Responsible New York.

"No one has brought forth one iota, one shred of information that would indicate that this is happening," Golisano told the TV news service. "It's purely a political thing that has come out of the Buffalo world. We think that is bad, and we're going to do something about it."

On June 20, Kavanaugh campaign treasurer Jeffrey A. Tooke filed a form with the state Board of Elections indicating he and O'Donnell were authorized to sign checks for Friends of Barbra Kavanaugh. On Aug. 7, Tooke filed a new form, replacing O'Donnell's name as co-signatory with that of Barbara W. Kloberdanz so O'Donnell could work for Golisano, Toth said.

"Is there proof of the coordination at this point?" Toth asked in August. "No. But all the circumstantial evidence and the fact that a signatory of Friends of Barbra Kavanaugh is now a staff member for Tom Golisano is enough evidence to warrant an investigation by the proper authorities."

Clark put no timetable on reaching a decision whether to pursue Toth's claims.


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