Grisanti looking to sell 60th district Senate seat – again; is Bloomberg buying?

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of his namesake financial news and information technology firm, may throw around big money in the 60th district Senate race. The Mayor is known nationally for pushing nanny-state policies that have caused him widespread ridicule from small government advocates. During his third term, his administration forced restaurants to remove salt shakers from tables; to limit the size of sugary beverages; and to ban the use of cooking oils that include trans fats.

The Mayor, who is a staunch supporter of gun control, has pledged $50 million in political spending to support more gun control regulation.

Bloomberg, and his political allies, have already dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Mark Grisanti’s reelection campaign two years ago, which required the incumbent to spend over $1.3 million to get through a primary that, some operatives say, never should have happened. Grisanti was hosted at a number of Manhattan fundraisers, two of which have been at Bloomberg’s home.

Now the Manhattan billionaire is considering whether or not to pony up big money for a Grisanti rescue plan that local operatives price between $2 and $3 million. Of course, New York State limits individual campaign contributions to $10,300 (in a general) or $6,300 (in a primary) to any single candidate. A donor’s total contributions to all candidates (or candidates’ authorized fundraising committees) is limited to $150,000 in a calendar year.

While Bloomberg is well versed in soliciting his friends for contributions on behalf of Grisanti, the more likely scenario – should Bloomberg attempt to retain his control of the seat – is to launch a political action committee that could promote issues and policy positions, but not explicitly act as a campaign commercial on Grisanti’s behalf.

A political action committee is banned from coordinating its activities with candidates. Most lawyers think that communicating with the campaign though a lobbyist or agent – like the disgraced Joel Giambra – would constitute coordination, which would be illegal.

One thing is for sure: if Bloomberg decides to throw around big money, all eyes will be watching. And he, more than perhaps anyone, knows that there is a fine line between buying a Seante seat (legal) and public corruption (illegal).

That kind of money and flood of television advertisements in the district could backfire among voters, who tend to demand that the electorate itself should decide who represents Western New York’s 60th district.

Grisanti’s deep unpopularity within the local Republican Party is almost universally credited to his vote for the Cuomo Administration’s NYSAFE Act, which has riled gun owners and Second Amendment activists in a yearlong run up to the election.

Grisanti continues to wage an effort to be reelected on the Independence Party line, though very few third-party candidates are elected to the New York State Senate, raising questions about the viability of the effort.

Marc Panepinto,who won his primary by fewer than 350 votes and was covicted of election fraud in 2001, is the endorsed Democrat.

Kevin Stocker, a Kenmore attorney who formerly served as Town Prosecutor in Tonawanda, is the Republican. He is polling strongly and is expected to win the general election decisively.

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