VANCOUVER - The premier's chief of staff denies knowing that a former government official on trial for fraud and breach of trust phoned radio talk shows to lob "softball questions" at Gordon Campbell around the controversial sale of B.C. Rail.

Martyn Brown said under cross-examination that he never directed Dave Basi to make such calls in the fall of 2003.

He told defence lawyer Kevin McCullough that he had no knowledge about whether former finance minister Gary Collins had any discussions with his aide Basi about phoning any talk shows.

Brown said he only ever encouraged political staff to ask others to call such shows, although it was a "perfectly acceptable practice" for government employees who weren't on the clock to phone in with favourable questions during the run-up to an election.

Brown also told B.C. Supreme Court he would be "completely shocked" if the premier frequently called Basi's co-accused Bobby Virk to assure him the government would take care of him after he was suspended with pay following a raid on the legislature.

The December 2003 raid eventually led to political corruption charges against Basi and Virk and a third government employee, who is accused of money laundering.