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Fix state rules on campaigns Casey situation symptomatic of larger Albany practice that needs changing

It's clearly wrong for state politicians to use staff members paid by the Assembly or Senate to help run their election or re-election campaigns. It's a practice that should be stopped. Taxpayers should not pay for political campaigns.

But this is how the state Legislature conducts its business and, so far, it has had the latitude to do so. Nor does the Legislature have any apparent intention of changing.

The practice came to light last week in News stories by James Heaney that called into question the propriety of Steven M. Casey, campaign director for Mayor-elect Byron W. Brown and his Senate office chief of staff, being paid by the state during the time he was working on the campaign. Brown and Casey maintain that he did that campaign work on compensatory and vacation time from his full-time Senate job. But neither they nor the State Senate will release the relevant payroll reports.

The Senate should release the payroll information. While Democrat Brown is not required under Republican-controlled Senate rules to release the payroll figures, he is free to. Not doing so might meet the letter of Senate rules, but Brown is dodging an opportunity to clear up the controversy by keeping the records secret.

To place the blame and burden for correcting this policy solely on Brown and Casey, when state legislators have been criticized for years for taking advantage of it, points the finger in the wrong direction.

District Attorney Frank J. Clark has said he will look into this matter. But fixing this practice statewide likely requires action by the attorney general, Eliot L. Spitzer, a Brown backer. Spitzer has made no secret of his distaste for some of Albany's bolder political shenanigans. This is a pivotal chance for the man who wants to be the next governor to look into possible campaign financing abuses glossed over as legislative tradition.

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