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WP: Bush-Cheney Lawyer Advised Anti-Kerry Vets


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Bush-Cheney Lawyer Advised Anti-Kerry Vets

By Dana Milbank and Thomas B. Edsall

Washington Post Staff Writers

Wednesday, August 25, 2004; Page A01

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 24 -- A top lawyer in President Bush's reelection campaign acknowledged Tuesday that he has been advising the veterans group seeking to discredit Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry's military record, an admission the Kerry campaign said is evidence the president's campaign is orchestrating a "smear" by the private group.

Benjamin L. Ginsberg, the chief outside counsel to the Bush campaign who also has advised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, said: "I've done some work for them. . . . The law lets lawyers do that . . . and does not include lawyers among the coordinated political activities" that are prohibited by federal election law.

He said two prominent Democratic lawyers are doing the same thing. He said Robert Bauer, the top legal counsel for the Kerry campaign, also is the attorney for an independent group, America Coming Together, that has been mobilizing voters in support of Kerry. In addition, Ginsberg said, Joseph Sandler is a lawyer for both the Democratic National Committee and for the independent group MoveOn.org, which has run advertisements attacking Bush.

Other election lawyers agreed that the fact that Ginsberg, who also was active in Bush's 2000 campaign, has been giving legal advice to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth does not violate campaign finance law prohibiting collusion between campaigns and independent groups. But Ginsberg's dual roles complicate the Bush campaign's effort to rebut as "frivolous" Kerry's complaint that it is behind the Swift boat ads.

Asked about the Ginsberg matter Tuesday night, Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said: "There has been no coordination at any time between Bush-Cheney '04 and any 527 organization."

The veterans group's advertisements casting doubt on Kerry's Vietnam War decorations have turned the senator's earning of a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts during four months of duty in Vietnam into a dominant election issue this month. The Kerry campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging illegal coordination between the Bush campaign and the group, known as a 527.

The 527s are nonprofit political groups named for a section of the tax code that covers them. They may raise and spend unlimited amounts of unregulated, or "soft," money from individuals, businesses and unions to run issue ads in federal elections. But the law prohibits 527 groups from coordinating their activities with individual political campaigns or political parties.

Bush on Monday said he was opposed to all advertising by 527 groups -- most of which has favored Kerry -- but would not specifically condemn the Swift boat veterans' advertisements.

In a letter Monday to the Federal Election Commission, Tom Josefiak, general counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Kerry's complaint is "frivolous" and "baselessly alleging illegal coordination" between the two groups. Josefiak said the "complaint should be promptly dismissed." The campaign also contacted stations that might air a Kerry ad alleging a smear to warn of possible libel.

The Kerry campaign jumped on Ginsberg's admission Tuesday night. "If the Bush campaign truly disapproved of this smear, their top lawyer wouldn't be involved with the Swift boat veterans group,'' said Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton.

Ginsberg said that a group of "decorated Vietnam War veterans came to me and said, 'We have an important point to get out in the debate under the First Amendment, the American right of free expression. . . . Help us,' they said, and I did."

His remarks were first reported by the Associated Press. He said he did not participate in strategy planning or in the development of messages, and did not discuss Bush campaign activities with the Swift boat veterans, or vice versa.

On Saturday, the Bush campaign dismissed from its veterans steering committee a volunteer and Vietnam veteran, retired Col. Kenneth Cordier, who appeared in a Swift boat veterans ad. The campaign said Cordier had not previously disclosed his participation with the Swift boat group.

Democrats also said their allegation of collusion was supported by a flier at a Bush-Cheney office in Florida promoting a Swift boat event, and by close relationships in the past between backers of the veterans group and Bush aides such as political adviser Karl Rove.

Don Simon, an election-law expert with the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy 21, said Ginsberg's dual role "is not per se coordination" between the Bush campaign and the veterans group. That would occur only if Ginsberg has been transferring information between the two -- a question that likely would not be resolved before the election even if the FEC chooses to investigate the matter. But, Simon said that "as a matter of common sense, it certainly raises questions."

Larry Noble, who runs the Center for Responsive Politics watchdog group, said the Ginsberg situation is not by itself improper, but "when you're looking at common lawyers, it adds another level to it."

Edsall reported from Washington.

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He worked as Gen Counsel for Campaign to elect Kerry along with Marc Elias who is also a MoveOn lawyer.

This isnt a new thing people. Both sides are doing this and have been doing it for years.

The difference is only one side is ****ing that the other stop.

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Originally posted by The Evil Genius

Why isn't Bush complaining then?

That seems to be the million dollar question...

Because the adds don't bother him but if they bother Kerry this much then that means there has to be some truth to them.

I find it funny that a single add is making Kerry so hot, imagine if he become president will he freak over everything then :doh:

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Originally posted by Shakermaker

actually, Bush did file a complaint back in the spring. Jbooma is making up stuff again.

But not the degree that Kerry is. Last I checked it was almost fall and we see more articles on Kerry and swift then Bush and any of the others.

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A lawyer for President Bush who also has advised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth resigned today from Bush's campaign. Meanwhile, a lawyer who works for Democratic National Committee and the Bush-hating group MoveOn.org refused to quit either organization.

"I cannot begin to express my sadness that my legal representations have become a distraction from the critical issues at hand in this election," Benjamin Ginsberg wrote in a resignation letter, which Bush's campaign released.

Story Continues Below

"I feel I cannot let that continue, so I have decided to resign as national counsel to your campaign to ensure that the giving of legal advice to decorated military veterans, which was entirely within the boundaries of the law, doesn't distract from the real issues upon which you and the country should be focusing."

However, Democrat lawyer Joe Sandler insisted there was nothing wrong with working for DNC as well as for MoveOn.

And Kerry continues to refuse to fire Zach Exley, a campaign staffer who was a director for MoveOn.org, just as Kerry's former campaign manager Jim Jordan refuses to quit the pro-Kerry Media Fund.

The Associated Press reported today, "Ginsberg said Tuesday he never told the Bush campaign what he discussed with the veterans group, or vice versa, and didn't advise the group on ad strategies."

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?'" he told the wire service. "I said yes, absolutely, as I would do for anyone."

From Newsmax, but still accurate....

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