The ongoing war of accusations between the two leading contenders for the GOP gubernatorial nomination - former Rep. Rick Lazio and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy - escalated Wednesday over wiretaps from an old political corruption case.

In a news release, Lazio's campaign called upon Levy to support the release of sealed wiretap transcripts that Lazio claims "show Levy talking to convicted felons" - a reference to former aides Steve Baranello and Wayne Prospect, who helped Levy's political rise.

Both were caught on tape taking bribes from an undercover detective posing as a contractor looking to do business with the Levy administration. Both were convicted on corruption charges resulting from a 2003 Suffolk district attorney investigation, but Levy was neither charged nor implicated.

"You have an obligation to call for the release of state wiretap tapes that have you speaking to convicted felons who were your campaign operatives and advisers," said the Lazio campaign statement. "If they are not made public people will wonder what you are hiding."

The Levy camp said Lazio was "again spreading lies and distortions," and that it was "quite clear during the trial that Steve Levy had no knowledge of or involvement with the actions of those charged."

A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota had no comment about the case.

In a separate news release, Levy said Lazio "has much to answer for on the ethics front as one of the top recipients of campaign donations from Wall Street firms," and that Lazio "helped them make billions by eliminating banking protections" while in Congress.

Levy also criticized Lazio for receiving a $1.3-million bonus from JPMorgan Chase, which last year received - and later paid back - $25 billion in federal TARP assistance during the nation's banking crisis. Lazio first disclosed his bonus earlier this year and said he was proud of his work for that firm.

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