The Bush campaign lawyer, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, said that the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, called him last month to ask for his help and that he agreed. Mr. Ginsberg said that he had yet to work out payment details with the group and that he might consider doing the work pro bono.
Mr. Ginsberg, the chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney re-election effort, agreed to an interview after several telephone calls to him and the campaigns asking that he explain his role. He said that he was helping the group comply with campaign finance rules and that his work was entirely separate from his work for the president. President Bush has called for an end to advertising by all groups like that of the Swift boat veterans, called 527s for the section of the tax code that created them.
The campaign of Senator John Kerry shares a lawyer, Robert Bauer, with America Coming Together, a liberal group that is organizing a huge multimillion-dollar get-out-the-vote drive that is far more ambitious than the Swift boat groups activities. Mr. Ginsberg said his role was no different from Mr. Bauers.
Mr. Bushs campaign aides have repeatedly said they have no connection to the group, almost all of whose challenges to Mr. Kerry and his war record have been contradicted by official war records and even some of its members own past statements.
Scott Stanzel, a Bush spokesman, said, “There has been no coordination at any time between Bush-Cheney 04 and any 527.”
Mr. Ginsberg, a prominent elections lawyer, was a senior lawyer for the Bush organization in the Florida recount after the 2000 election and was once general counsel to the Republican National Committee. He said he had no involvement in the message or strategy of the Swift boat group and said he had no reason to believe that Mr. Bush knew of his involvement.
“The truth is there are very few lawyers who work in this area, Mr. Ginsberg said. “Its sort of natural that people do come to the few of us for the work. What happened was a month or so ago some decorated Vietnam vets came to me and said: ‘We have an important point of view to enter into the debate. Theres a new law thats complicated, and we want help complying with the law.”
He added, “I have given them some legal compliance advice.”
Mr. Kerry has gone on the offensive over the groups activities, saying it is “a front” for Mr. Bushs campaign and repeatedly calling on the president to repudiate an advertisement from the group attacking his record. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is also a decorated war veteran, has also called on Mr. Bush to repudiate the spots