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Inside Politics

Bush adviser quits after appearing in swift boat ad

Kerry has accused group of illegally working with campaign

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John Kerry spends most of the week on the offensive.
• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
John Edwards

ROANOKE, Virginia (CNN) -- A volunteer adviser has quit President Bush's re-election campaign after appearing in a veterans group's television commercial blasting Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's involvement in the Vietnam-era antiwar movement.

A Bush campaign statement said it did not know that retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier had appeared in an ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The Kerry campaign has accused the group of illegally working with the Bush campaign.

As a so-called 527 group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is barred from coordinating efforts with an election campaign.

Kerry's camp calls it a front for the Bush campaign and has urged the Federal Election Commission to cite the group, the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee for violating federal election laws.

The 527 groups are named for the federal provision that makes such organizations tax exempt and allows them to accept unlimited donations.

Before his departure, Cordier -- who spent six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam -- was a member of the Bush-Cheney campaign's veterans' steering committee, campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said in a written statement issued Saturday night.

Cordier appeared in a commercial launched Friday by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has accused Kerry of lying about his Vietnam service. In it, he and other Vietnam veterans accuse Kerry, a decorated Navy officer, of selling out his old comrades by joining the antiwar movement upon his return home.

"He betrayed us in the past. How could we be loyal to him now?" Cordier asks in the ad.

Schmidt called Cordier "an American hero" but said he would "no longer participate as a volunteer for Bush-Cheney '04" because of his appearance in the anti-Kerry ad.

"Col. Cordier did not inform the campaign of his involvement in the advertisement being run by a 527 organization," Schmidt said.

The Bush campaign called Kerry's FEC complaint "frivolous" in a response released Saturday and urged commissioners to dismiss it swiftly.

A previous ad by the swift boat group accuses Kerry of lying to get his war medals: three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. Kerry and others say the ads are false and misleading.

The latest ad, a 30-second spot released Friday, uses segments from Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971. In the ad, Kerry says, "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads," "randomly shot at civilians," and "razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Kahn."

The ad does not include Kerry's preface, in which he said he is reporting what others said at a Vietnam veterans conference. Instead, a swift boat group member refers to the statements as "accusations" Kerry made against Vietnam veterans.

An official transcript shows Kerry was referring to a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, that was part of what was called the Winter Soldier investigation. Kerry has said he regrets some of the comments but stands by his protests.

Two speak up for Kerry

Also Saturday, two former comrades of Kerry backed up the candidate's account of the events that earned him his Silver Star.

William Rood, an editor at the Chicago Tribune, writes in Sunday's editions: "Kerry's critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened [in 1969] were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us."

Like Kerry, Rood was a lieutenant junior grade and skipper of one of the three boats ambushed twice while on patrol February 28, 1969. Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, the Navy's third-highest combat decoration, for his aggressive response to the ambushes.

Rood won a Bronze Star for his actions in the same clash, and writes that criticism of Kerry " impugns others who are not in the public eye."

He says, "It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there."

John O'Neill, who wrote a book challenging Kerry's accounts of his service, said Saturday that SBVT was not challenging Rood's commendation. But in a statement issued the same day, he called Rood's account "an obvious political move" and said the group's accusations against Kerry were drawn from two previous books about the Massachusetts senator.

"Anyone who compares the three books on the Silver Star incident will see that they are substantially identical in the facts," he said.

Rood says in the first-person article that Kerry asked him to publicly discuss his account of that mission.

"I can't pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this," he writes."What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it."

Rood writes that Kerry was in charge of the mission and discussed with the other two skippers how to handle the inevitable ambushes.

"We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush," he writes, "we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats."

Twice on that day Kerry ordered such a maneuver, according to Rood. Each time the ambushes were quelled.

O'Neill's book said Kerry shot a fleeing Vietnamese teenager to win the award.

Rood disputes that, saying he checked with another sailor on that mission and they agreed that "he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the [Viet Cong] usually wore."

Wayne Langhofer, who now works at a gunpowder plant in Kansas, said he also was present for the battle.

"I was with Kerry when he won his Silver Star, and as far as I'm concerned, he did right," he told CNN on Saturday.

CNN's Matthew Hoye and Phil Hirshkorn contributed to this article.

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