06/06/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lieberman, Graham Leave Anti-Obama Group Vets For Freedom

The Huffington Post broke the news last week that two of Sen. John McCain's top campaign chairmen were serving on the board of an independent organization behind a set of attack ads against Sen. Barack Obama, an apparent violation of the Arizona Republican's new conflict of interest policy.

The New York Times reports this morning that Lieberman and Graham have both stepped down from their positions the group:

Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, prominent surrogates for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, stepped down Wednesday from their positions with an independent group that released a pair of Internet advertisements attacking Senator Barack Obama on Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, were both on the policy advisory board to the organization, Vets for Freedom, which on Wednesday released its second Web advertisement in less than a week attacking Mr. Obama.

The senators' positions with the group, which describes itself as a grass-roots advocacy organization pushing for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to place them in contravention of new conflict-of-interest rules released by Mr. McCain's campaign that specifically prohibit anyone "with a McCain campaign title or position" from participating in a "527 or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate."

After inquiries from reporters, the senators released a joint letter to Vets for Freedom on Wednesday saying they had requested a leave from their positions to come into compliance with the new policy.

"This is obviously something we're working through," said Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign. "This is the kind of thing that happens when you have the strictest possible policy on these issues."

The new policy was meant to head off embarrassing questions about connections of members of the McCain campaign to special interests that run counter to Mr. McCain's reformist reputation. But adhering to that standard has proved complicated.