Malcolm Smith Speaks for democratic Democrats

What latitude does the leader of a political conference have in speaking for his conference?

That question is at the heart of Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith's complaint about the Republican Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who said yesterday that he gets plenty of feedback from his conference members and could therefore speak on their behalf at meetings of legislative leaders.

"I was extremely disappointed when Senator Bruno declared that he spoke for his entire conference," Smith said in a public statement today. "I recognize the members of my conference as individuals who bring important perspectives to the governing process and believe it is irresponsible to assume that members of the Senate Republican Conference would be unable to provide equally valid input."

It's interesting because the same complaint about Bruno could be made of Sheldon Silver in the Assembly, who has negotiated directly with the governor on behalf of his conference.

Could this be an early manifestation of Eliot Spitzer's plan to contruct a public model that he can present as pro-reform Democrats in the Senate and anti-reform Democrats in the Assembly?