Billionaire candidate B. Thomas Golisano sued Gov. George Pataki for $45 million Tuesday, saying he was libeled in a botched Pataki campaign mailing.

The suit, filed in state Supreme Court, names the governor and his campaign as defendants over an August mailing made by Friends of Pataki (Independence Party).

The mailing attacks Golisano over workers he hired to gather petitions for the Sept. 10 state Conservative Party primary, and says: "Golisano's campaign is so filled with deception, you can't believe a thing you hear."

Under an item headlined "Tom Golisano's Running Mate is Running From Justice," the mailing also says: "Facing felony charges, Tom Golisano has fled New York State and moved to Connecticut."

The item was about Daniel Mahony, whom Golisano favored as a running mate. But after questions arose about Mahony possibly voting illegally in New York, he said he had moved to Connecticut and was no longer eligible to run for office in New York.

Pataki campaign spokeswoman Mollie Fullington said Mahony's name was accidentally omitted from the mailing.

"It should have been more precise," she said.

She called the libel suit "absurd" and a "political stunt."

"After all the distortions and lies from Tom Golisano, this is the height of hypocrisy," she said.

Golisano said the error was "very dismaying" and an insult to the 30 years he has spent building a successful business and a reputation in New York. He said the reference to being charged with a felony was "supposedly" a mistake.

"The fact of the matter is, carelessness does not rationalize slander and libel," he said. "There was not even an apology or a reprint or anything."

Golisano is challenging Pataki for the nomination of the Independence Party. He has also mounted a write-in challenge seeking to wrest the Conservative Party nomination away from the governor.