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Albany - In the years since Gov. George Pataki took office, billionaire Ronald Lauder has emerged as one of his major benefactors, a relationship underscored earlier this month when Pataki's tax returns showed that Pataki's wife earned $80,000 as a consultant to the cosmetics heir.
Lauder and Pataki share everything from a political consultant to policy goals to an interest in Israel. And through campaign contributions to Pataki and to the state Republican Party, as well as through compensation to Libby Pataki in the past four years, Lauder has provided more than $400,000 to Pataki, his family and his allies since 1995.
But Lauder also is the chairman-elect of a major umbrella group of Jewish organizations across the United States, a group that puts a premium on nonpartisanship at home and abroad by its leader. Lauder won that post in February only after he assured members that he did not financially support Benjamin Netanyahu, the embattled prime minister of Israel, who faces an election next month.