Fresh off his sale of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, entrepreneur and New York political activist Tom Golisano this morning announced he's putting his energies and considerable financial resources into a new cause: ending the Electoral College's role in picking a new president.
At a press conference in Washington, he said he's signed up for a "crusade" to abandon the existing system of electing the nation's chief executives in favor of a national popular vote. Four times in the nation's history, most recently in 2000, the Electoral College awarded the White House to a candidate who came in second.
The effort Golisano is supporting targets state legislatures rather than Congress, The plan is to get states representing a majority of Electoral College votes - 270 - to agree to award them to the winner of the popular election. It does not abolish the Electoral College, but would effectively circumvent its role in picking presidents.
So far, 7 states have approved the measure. Golisano said there will be a full-fledged lobbying effort -- including, where necessary, TV and radio ads -- as well as a grassroots campaign to build support. The founder of Paychex, a payroll services company and three-time unsuccessful candidate for New York governor, Golisano demurred when asked how much money he's prepared to invest.
"I'm not going to say because I don't know myself," he said. "But anyone who knows me knows I'm not going to be bashful about it."
Golisano, who has run for office as an independent, says one reason he's pushing the measure is that it would force candidates to pay attention to more than just the "battleground states" whose Electoral College votes hold the key to victory under the current system. According to the National Popular Vote campaign, 98 percent of the campaign events in the 2008 White House race took place in 15 states.