Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 4, 2011

GLYNN: Parenti keeps high profile in politics

COLUMN BY DON GLYNN — If you were watching the Buffalo Sabres game on television last week, you may have caught a glimpse of the VIPs in owner Tom Golisano’s suite.

During a break in the action, the camera focused on Golisano, his friend Monica Selles, the one-time tennis star, and another good friend, former President Bill Clinton.

Selles, as you know, has accompanied Golisano to other recent events including his visit to Niagara University in October, when he announced a $10 million gift to the college.

Among the other guests for the hockey game — out of camera range — was Gary Parenti of Niagara Falls, a staunch Democrat who worked tirelessly on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“I was in and out of the box, looking after some details,” Parenti said, emphasizing that the night at the HSBC was a chance for Golisano and the ex-president to visit.

Parenti said Golisano and his guests attended a dinner before the game.

At one time, Parenti, 42, was the top aide to former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon. He also was an unsuccessful candidate for the state Assembly.

Subsequently, he was introduced to Golisano, the Rochester billionaire who founded Paychex in 1971.

Parenti noted how Bill Clinton, after leaving the White House, had invited Golisano several years ago to his downstate home in Chappaqua, on the Hudson River, to brief him on plans for the Clinton Global Initiative, part of a foundation designed to combat world problems.

“Golisano was really impressed with Clinton’s idea,” Parenti added. Obviously, that’s an accurate analysis based on the reports that Golisano then donated more than $1 million to the new foundation.

About three years ago, Golisano announced he was affiliating with the Republican Party, as he pondered one more race for governor in 2006. He had made three earlier runs as the Independence Party candidate.

Finally, he decided to go on his own, organizing what he termed Responsible New York. This year alone, he spent upwards of $4 million on the campaigns of several lawmakers around the state.

As for Parenti, he’s still in the thick of politics, a sharp contrast from his own perspective only nine months when he had a minor brush with the law (an impaired driving charge). At that time, he reportedly told the arresting officer, “May career is over.”

Hardly. In fact, he’s been keeping company these days with some people genuinely interested in making a difference on the political scene.

•••

PAYING THE PRICE: Even the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings are feeling the pinch of the depressed economy.

With so many empty seats for the NFL games in the Joe Louis Arena, the Wings have been offering some seats — part of a special package — for $9.

The average ticket price for a Sabres’ game is $36.43, well below the NHL average of $49.66. A family of four with seats in the HSBC Arena can expect to pay a total of $184.72 (including the tickets, two small beers, hot dogs, soft drinks and parking.)

At the Air Canada Centre, Toronto, the family of four will pay about $365 (with the same extras). The Leafs front office has always boasted about selling out every game since the mid-1950s, but the fact is you can always buy tickets on the street, just a feet from the arena entrance.

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.

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