washingtonpost.com  > Politics > Elections > 2004 Election

Bush Campaign Drops Swift Boat Ad Figure

Democrat's Team Says Veteran's Role in Drive to Discredit Kerry Shows a Link

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page A13

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 21 -- The Bush campaign said late Saturday that it dismissed an adviser on veterans issues after learning that he is part of an independent group that has been running anti-Kerry ads.

The Bush campaign said Kenneth Cordier, who appears in a new advertisement to be aired by the anti-Kerry group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, will no longer serve in his voluntary position on Bush's veterans steering committee. A Bush spokesman said Cordier had not previously informed the campaign that he had been involved with the group, but the Kerry campaign said the matter provides evidence supporting its complaint to the Federal Election Commission alleging illegal cooperation between the campaign and the independent group.

A frame grab shows Swift boat veteran Ken Cordier in a television commercial attacking candidate John F. Kerry's war record. (Reuters)

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"Col. Cordier did not inform the campaign of his involvement in the advertisement being run by a 527 organization," Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt wrote in a statement, referring to the technical name for independent groups such as the Swift boat organization. Schmidt said Cordier "will no longer participate as a volunteer for Bush-Cheney '04."

Cordier's connection to the Bush campaign was made public yesterday by the Kerry campaign, which found that Cordier had been named on the Bush Web site earlier this month as a member of the veterans committee but that his name had subsequently been removed. A Bush aide said Cordier, who spent six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and was a Bush supporter in 2000, called the campaign to disclose his involvement on Friday and was told he could no longer serve as an adviser to the campaign.

The ads by the Swift boat group, named for the type of boat Kerry commanded during the Vietnam War, has been causing a furious debate between the campaigns, with Kerry demanding that Bush condemn the ads that suggest that Kerry did not earn his war decorations and that he betrayed his fellow veterans by his later antiwar activity. The Bush campaign has said it opposes ads by all outside groups but declined to specifically criticize the Swift boat ads.

The Swift boat veterans ad featuring Cordier, to air this week in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada, shows footage of Kerry's antiwar testimony from 1971. "He betrayed us in the past -- how can we be loyal to him now?" Cordier said in the ad.

Cordier could not be reached at his home in Dallas last night.

Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said the Cordier matter added more weight to its complaint filed last week with the FEC. "This is another brick in the wall of evidence that the Bush campaign is behind this smear," he said. "No wonder the president won't condemn the ads."

Under law, political campaigns cannot coordinate with the 527 organizations, which are funded with unregulated "soft" money and have proved to be an enormous loophole in the new campaign-finance legislation. Bush aides have said there has been no coordination with the Swift boat group. "We've already said we weren't involved in any way in these ads," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last week. "We've made that clear."

But the Kerry campaign said that claim is put in doubt both by the Cordier issue and by various news accounts demonstrating close relationships between the Swift boat veterans and key Bush advisers. The Kerry campaign also asserts that a Kerry campaign volunteer picked up a Swift Boat Veterans for Truth flier at the Bush-Cheney office in Gainesville, Fla.

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