WASHINGTON (AP) -- A lawyer for President Bush's re-election campaign disclosed Tuesday that he has been providing legal advice for a veterans group that is challenging Democratic Sen. John Kerry's account of his Vietnam War service.
Benjamin Ginsberg's acknowledgment marks the second time in days that an individual associated with the Bush-Cheney campaign has been connected to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which Kerry accuses of being a front for the Republican incumbent's re-election effort.
The Bush campaign and the veterans' group say there is no coordination.
The group "came to me and said, 'We have a point of view we want to get into the First Amendment debate right now. There's a new law. It's very complicated. We want to comply with the law, will you keep us in the bounds of the law?"' Ginsberg said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I said yes, absolutely, as I would do for anyone."
Ginsberg said he never told the Bush campaign what he discussed with the group, or vice versa, and doesn't advise the group on ad strategies.
"They have legal questions and when they have legal questions I answer them," Ginsberg said. He said he had not yet decided whether to charge the Swift Boat Veterans a fee for his work.
Kerry's presidential campaign last week filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the Bush campaign and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth of illegally coordinating the group's ads.
The ads allege Kerry has lied about his decorated Vietnam War service; the group's accounts in a television ad have been disputed by Navy records and veterans who served on Kerry's boat.
"It's another piece of the mounting evidence of the ties between the Bush campaign and this group," Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said of Ginsberg's admission. "The longer President Bush waits to specifically condemn this smear, the more it looks like his campaign is behind it."
On Saturday, retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier resigned as a member of the Bush campaign's veterans' steering committee after it was learned that he appeared in the Swift Boat veterans' commercial.
Kerry, meanwhile, is the subject of complaints by the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee accusing his campaign of illegally coordinating anti-Bush ads with soft-money groups on the Democratic side, allegations he and the groups deny.
Ginsberg also represented the Bush campaign in 2000 and became a prominent figure during the Florida recount.
He also served as counsel to the RNC in its unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn the nation's campaign finance law, which banned the national party committees from collecting corporate, union and unlimited donations known as soft money and imposed stricter rules on coordination involving parties, candidates and interest groups.
Ginsberg contends that by offering legal advice to both the Bush campaign and the Swift Boat group, he has done nothing different than other election lawyers in Washington, including attorneys for Kerry and the Democratic National Committee who have also advised soft-money groups.
Representing campaigns, parties and outside groups simultaneously is legal and allowed under the law and by the FEC, he said.
"The truth is there is only a handful of lawyers who live and breathe this law. And so because the coordination rules do not include legal services among the prohibited coordinated activities, we provide legal service," Ginsberg said.
Larry Noble, head of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics campaign watchdog group and former FEC general counsel, said it's true that serving as a lawyer for both a campaign and a soft-money group isn't considered automatic evidence of coordination under commission rules, but added that it doesn't mean the FEC won't look at it.
"I think there's a valid question about when you're talking about strictly legal advice and when you're talking about policy issues and strategic issues," Noble said. "It's fair to ask what the advice is about."
Joe Sandler, a lawyer for the DNC and a group running anti-Bush ads, MoveOn.org, said there is nothing wrong with serving in both roles at once.
In addition to the FEC's coordination rules, attorneys are ethically bound to maintain attorney-client confidentiality, Sandler said. They could lose their law license if they violate that, he said.
.............On Wednesday, Bush election attorney Ben Ginsberg (search) resigned after admitting that he had advised the Swift boat veterans. The Kerry campaign subsequently slammed Bush for coordination efforts. In response, the Bush campaign named several Kerry campaign advisers who also represent 527s, including former Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, a member of the Democratic National Committee's Executive Committee and the Media Fund; and Joe Sandler, legal counsel to both the Kerry campaign and MoveOn.org...............
And Zach Exley, the director of special projects for the MoveOn.org was hired by the Kerry Campaign.
if both sides break the 527 rule then it's okay
Hell a former Kerry CAMPAIGN MANAGER runs one of the MoveOn.org 527s
No, the Bush campaign has broken no law and there is not one bit of proof they have.
All most all of the managers of the left leaning 527s were on the stage with Kerry at the Democratic convention. The Kerry campaign decides to save money this month and cut back on ads and bingo the lefts 527s increase spending to new levels to fill the gap… yea right.