COLUMBIA- Matt Moore, chairman of the S.C. Republican Party, on Thursday defended a Republican Governors Association advertisement that has prompted criticism from lawyers across the country.

In the ad, Democratic candidate Vincent Sheheen is criticized for "taking money" to defend clients who committed domestic assault and other crimes against women.

A lawyer for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blasted the ad in the Huffington Post, and Democrats sent reporters a 2010 Foreign Policy article quoting Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who defended lawyers who take on troubled clients.

"I've been a military lawyer for almost 30 years, I represented people as a defense attorney in the military that were charged with some pretty horrific acts, and I gave them my all," Graham said at the time. "This system of justice that we're so proud of in America requires the unpopular to have an advocate and every time a defense lawyer fights to make the government do their job, that defense lawyer has made us all safer."

Moore said that the ad wasn't about Graham, it was about Sheheen.

"We're not denigrating all lawyers," Moore said. "I don't think Sen. Graham has anything to do with this."

Sheheen's clients pleaded guilty to a range of crimes involving violence against women, Moore said. "This is fair game. He simply took these clients to make money. We think he's not fit to serve as governor."

Sheheen, a state senator and general practice attorney in Camden, has said that voters are smart enough to know that his work as a criminal defense lawyer doesn't reflect his personal views. He said that as a young lawyer he took a lot of different cases to gain experience and now primarily works on civil cases.

He also touted his experience as a former Camden prosecutor from 2000 to 2002.

"As a former prosecutor, Vincent has seen what families and victims go through and he has worked with law enforcement to hold criminals accountable and achieve justice," his campaign manager, Andrew Whalen, said in a statement.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.