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Reform, Golisano style

I'd feel better about the prospect of the Republican coup in the State Senate leading to real reform if one of the Democrats who switched sides isn't under indictment for slashing his girlfriend and the other isn't facing $60,000 in penalties for failing to disclose his campaign finances.

This is reform, Tom Golisano style.

He's got to be the most influential resident of Naples, Fla,. the Empire State has ever seen.

Golisano has reportedly been working behind the scenes for a month to flip the Senate from Democratic to Republican control. Golisano, 'tis said, was miffed that the Dems didn't embrace his idea of reform. And, in fact, by hiring the likes of Baby Joe Mesi, the new majority party didn't exactly set themselves up as the party of change.

Keep in mind that Golisano poured a lot of money into mostly Democratic Senate candidates last fall, including Bill Stachowski and the aforementioned Baby Joe, with the expectation he'd have lots of influence if the Dems took over. Apparently he and sidekick Steve Pigeon didn't have as much juice as they wanted, although in getting their Baby Joe a job, they certainly seemed to have some influence.

Some folks have said Golisano isn't in the game for real reform, but for power, and Monday's developments show he's got a lot of the latter, while doing something to advance the former.

Consider the Senate rule changes the Republicans announced almost immediately. Hardly a template for model government, but they do appear to move beyond what the Dems have done so far.

Rather than reform, the real end game for Golisano and Pigeon might be that, finding themselves in the good graces of the new Senate majority, they might just have gotten out from under a potentially explosive investigation by the state Board of Elections, which had fielded complaints about the conduct of Responsible New York and an affiliated front group.

I'm told it takes both Democratic and Republican commissioners on the state Board of Elections to authorize an investigation and that's the direction things appeared to be headed a few weeks ago. But the GOP owes Golisano too much now to dare let that investigation move forward.

Lest anyone think I'm crying for the Democrats, well, I'm not. They inherited a mandate for change and then went out and pulled stunts like hiring Baby Joe.

To quote Pete Townshend: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

But I'm also under no illusion that the new Senate majority is likely to take the steps necessary to clean up their house.

The state is sinking like a leaf in a whirlpool and our so-called leaders are preoccupied with playing politics.

It's enough to bring out the cynic in any Who fan, and really, who in their right mind is not a Who fan?

Hit it, Pete.

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State government
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