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Bush-Cheney lawyer resigns over veterans flap

Ginsberg: 'Stunning double standard' in 527 media coverage

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• Bush-Cheney lawyer, swift boats
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Benjamin Ginsberg
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush
America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A legal adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign resigned Wednesday after revealing that he had also advised the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the 527 group that has launched a campaign to discredit Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's military record.

A campaign official told CNN that Benjamin Ginsberg advised the group a few months ago at the same time he was working with the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Campaign adviser Terry Holt told CNN that the Bush-Cheney campaign learned Tuesday of Ginsberg's double duty.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is a so-called 527 -- named after the federal provision that makes such organizations tax exempt and allows them to accept unlimited donations.

The group has aired commercials in several battleground states criticizing Kerry's record and accusing him of lying about the mission that led to him being awarded the Bronze Star in the Vietnam War.

In his resignation letter, Ginsberg said there is "a stunning double standard" between the news media's focus on "the activities of 527s aligned with John Kerry and those opposed to him."

"I cannot begin to express my sadness that my legal representations have become a distraction from the critical issues at hand in this election," Ginsberg wrote.

"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 ... doesn't distract from the real issues upon which you and the country should be focusing."

Ginsberg is the second Bush-Cheney adviser to separate himself from the campaign over the group, which has accused Kerry of lying to get his three Purple Hearts, Silver Star and Bronze Star during his Vietnam service.

Retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier, an unpaid adviser to the campaign on veterans' issues, resigned earlier this week after he appeared in a new ad taking on the Massachusetts senator for his antiwar activities when he returned from Vietnam.

The Kerry campaign filed a complaint last week with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the group illegally coordinated with the Bush campaign.

The Bush campaign called the complaint "frivolous and false." (Kerry files FEC complaint against swift boat group)

Republicans filed FEC complaints months ago accusing the Kerry campaign of coordinating with similar 527 groups such as the Media Fund and America Coming Together.

Mary Beth Cahill, a Kerry campaign aide, said the resignation of Ginsberg "only confirms the extent of those connections" between the president's re-election committee and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

The veterans' claims about Kerry's military record are unsubstantiated, and in some cases are contradicted by past statements by the veterans themselves. Other veterans, some of whom served alongside Kerry, have stepped forward to defend the official Navy record of the circumstances surrounding Kerry's awards.

Bush-Cheney campaign officials told CNN that Ginsberg's role with the campaign was discussed Wednesday.

The officials, who said they have spoken to Ginsberg about his discussions with the group, said Ginsberg gave them legal advice but not political advice.

Political strategy was not the focus of his discussions with the group, the campaign officials said.

Attorneys also are bound by lawyer-client privilege, preventing them from discussing with one client their work for another.

Ginsberg served Bush-Cheney as national counsel in 2000 and was a key player in the recount of the 2000 Florida vote recount, according to a biography on his Washington firm's Web site.

His biography also says he "represents the campaigns and leadership PACs of numerous members of the Senate and House, as well as the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee.

He serves as counsel to the Republican Governors Association and has wide experience on the state legislative level from directing Republican redistricting efforts nationwide following the 1990 Census and being actively engaged in the 2001-2002 round of redistricting."

Former Sen. Max Cleland planned to try to deliver a letter to President Bush's ranch signed by several lawmakers urging him to publicly condemn the commercials.

On Monday, Bush said he opposed all 527 ads, calling them "bad for the system." (Bush urges Kerry to condemn attack ads)

Cahill said Ginsberg's resignation "doesn't end the extensive web of connections between George Bush and the group trying to smear John Kerry's military record."

"Now we know why George Bush refuses to specifically condemn these false ads," she said. "People deeply involved in his own campaign are behind them, from paying for them, to appearing in them, to providing legal advice, to coordinating a negative strategy to divert the public away from issues like jobs, health care and the mess in Iraq, the real concerns of the American people. It's time for George Bush to take responsibility himself and condemn these false attacks."

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