One of these things is not like the others: Why is GOP lawyer Ben Ginsberg on MSNBC's debate panels?

On MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews's pre-debate panel on October 8 comprised the journalists Howard Fineman, David Gregory, Norah O'Donnell, and ... Ben Ginsberg. Although Benjamin L. Ginsberg is an “MSNBC contributor,” he is not a journalist; he is a lawyer with partisan ties -- a fact Matthews notes whenever he appears on Hardball. In August, Ginsberg resigned from his position as chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign after he acknowledged that he had been providing legal advice to the discredited anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

In addition to having served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, Ginsberg, a partner in the law firm of Patton Boggs LLP, is the former general counsel to the Republican National Committee. According to his bio on the Patton Boggs website, "[H]e played a central role in the 2000 Florida recount."

Ginsberg was also a panelist for MSNBC's debate coverage of the first presidential debate on September 30, as well as of the October 5 vice presidential debate. Here's a sample of Ginsberg's contribution to MSNBC's post-vice presidential debate coverage:

MATTHEWS: Ben, you help me get the story straight right now. Was Iraq involved with 9-11?

GINSBERG: As far as we know, there were certainly insinuations in the 9-11 Commission report that there were. As for the absolute truth of the matter ...

MATTHEWS: No, there weren't. No, there weren't. No, there were not. I'm sorry, Ben. I have got to correct you here.

Ginsberg was wrong. Matthews was right. From the 9-11 Commission Report:

We have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.

Fineman is Newsweek's chief political correspondent. Gregory and O'Donnell are White House correspondents for NBC News.