Bush Attorney Resigns Amid Ad Flap

WASHINGTON, D.C. President George W. Bush’s lead outside attorney, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, resigned today following a disclosure that he gave legal advice to the political interest group that has attacked Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam service record in two controversial TV commercials.

Ginsberg, who gave advice to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, said in a letter to Bush that his actions were legal and similar to work a lawyer for the Kerry campaign has done for outside political interest groups, known as 527s for their status under the Internal Revenue Service’s tax code. Under campaign finance law, these outside groups cannot coordinate their activities with the campaigns of candidates running for office.

“Unfortunately, this campaign has seen a stunning double standard emerge between the media’s focus on the activities of 527s aligned with John Kerry and those opposed to him,” Ginsberg said in the letter sent Wednesday. “I cannot begin to express my sadness that my legal representations have become a distraction from the critical issues at hand in this election. 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.”

Kerry has accused the Bush campaign of having connections to the group since it aired the ads, which question Kerry’s war record, and has repeatedly asked Bush to condemn the ads.

Kerry’s campaign responded to the ads with its own commercial featuring a former Green Beret who says Kerry saved his life in Vietnam under enemy fire. The campaign this weekend aired the ad in three swing states: Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin [Adweek Online, Aug. 19]. Prior to the controversy, the Kerry campaign had hoped to stay off the air in August to save money for the fall campaign.

Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said Ginsberg’s resignation confirms the connections between the Bush campaign and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. “Now we know why George Bush refuses to specifically condemn these false ads,” Cahill said in a statement. “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, healthcare and the mess in Iraq.”