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Paladino opens wallet for Kearns campaign

Downtown developer Carl P. Paladino, who had been watching this year's mayoral election from the sidelines, jumped head first into Michael P. Kearns' campaign Tuesday with promises of serious financial aid, just a week before the Democratic Party primary.

Paladino, who contributed $64,500 through his various companies to Byron W. Brown's 2005 opponent, now says he is ready to commit significant amounts of his money to oppose the mayor. He would not specify a figure but promised it would be enough to fund a new round of television commercials for Kearns, who currently represents the South District on the Common Council.

"I was going to sit this one out because I was disgusted by the whole thing," Paladino said Tuesday. "But I can't.

"We'll do everything we can to help him," he added.

The new commitment began being felt Tuesday as Paladino-sponsored radio commercials blistered the mayor.

With anticipated television ads, they sent a new jolt of life into a Kearns campaign that had raised only a fraction of the financial support that Brown has received. The mayor still has more than $1 million in his campaign treasury despite a recent spate of television commercials.

Kearns has only about $34,000 on hand, according to the latest reports filed with the state Board of Elections. As a result, many potential donors -- especially those who might have been influenced by Paladino's involvement -- had dismissed the Kearns effort.

As recently as late July, Paladino had said he would not participate in the Kearns campaign.

"Viewing our city objectively with all its problems, there is nobody working for this community," he said then. "It's shameful that our political parties have not come up with the candidates to provide leadership."

But Paladino said his view changed as the mayor has battled recent allegations of favoritism showed toward Leonard Stokes, a former basketball star who obtained city loans for a restaurant venture that city audits eventually concluded was doomed from the start.

"There's no way I can stay out of this thing," he said.

A frequent Brown critic, Paladino said he was taken aback by many of the mayor's campaign claims and felt compelled to respond. He said it took "a couple of honest policemen" to come forth with allegations that Brown interfered with an investigation into allegations that Stokes possessed a stolenhandicapped parking sticker -- at about the same time a city development agency was providing risky loans to Stokes' One Sunset restaurant.

"This stuff that has occurred in the past week has lit up so many people," Paladino said. "You can't tell me he didn't know about One Sunset."

Brown, chairman of the city agency that issued the loans, has consistently said he had little knowledge of them. While acknowledging he met with Stokes on several occasions, the mayor said he did not take any extraordinary steps to assist him.

Mayoral spokesman Peter K. Cutler noted Tuesday that Paladino has launched unwarranted attacks in recent years on entities ranging from the Buffalo Board of Education to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

"It is really no surprise that Paladino has joined in a negative campaign," Cutler said. "He was a significant financial backer to the mayor's opponent [Republican Kevin J. Helfer] in 2005, and he has proven in recent years that he is a participant in negative forces in this city."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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