Politics

Ad War Raging Over Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Liberal and conservative groups are spending millions of dollars to support and oppose President Donald Trump's choice

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is at the center of a fierce battle being waged by activists groups on the Left and Right who are spending millions of dollars to support or oppose his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If he is confirmed, he will replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh became the prime target of multiple campaigns and grass-roots initiatives as soon as President Donald Trump nominated him July 9 because he would give the nation’s highest court a solid conservative majority for the first time in decades.

That fact made the stakes involved in his nomination sky-high.

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) went into the battle supporting Kavanaugh prepared to spend at least $10 million knowing what was ahead. The plan is to reach and possibly surpass what the group spent last year during the nomination process for Justice Neil Gorsuch. The group is spending heavily on advertising and activating its grass-roots networks to generate pressure on the Senate for confirmation.

“We realized this was going to be a campaign from the Left that is harshly opposed to Judge Kavanaugh,” JCN chief counsel Carrie Severino told LifeZette. “We saw they were previewing that even before a nominee was chosen. So we knew we would have to be able to step up with at least the budget we had for the Gorsuch confirmation and be prepared to do more if necessary.”

Related: Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Pick: Everything You Must Know

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Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has also committed to spending millions of dollars in advertising and grass-roots engagement to support the nomination. The free-market advocate boasts a grass-roots network that covers most of the nation.

Sarah Field, AFP’s vice president for judicial strategy, believes the Kavanaugh nomination battle is even more intense than the process that led to Gorsuch’s confirmation in 2017.

“Our focus is really on connecting with everyday citizens,” Field told LifeZette. “So we have a grass-roots infrastructure that’s currently across 36 states. Our folks are there all the time, talking with real people about the issues they care about and the role of government. And the Supreme Court is something that is important to folks.”

On the Left, NARAL Pro-Choice has been one of the more active groups opposing the nomination, and, as has become the group’s standard routine since the 1987 debacle surrounding the nomination of Judge Robert Bork, protecting abortion rights is the heart of the NARAL message.

The group claimed in a six-figure ad buy in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Nevada and Texas that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would risk reversing the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S.

“These senators hold the keys to women’s futures and our fundamental freedoms in their hands,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a July 10 statement. “Donald Trump has been crystal clear, he wants to end Roe v Wade, and Kavanaugh is his path to doing so. Now the only question is whether these senators will stand up and fight for women and families.”

Joining NARAL on the Left against Kavanaugh is a large coalition of left-wing activists groups, including Indivisible Project, MoveOn.org, and Demand Justice. The coalition encouraged its supporters to visit district offices the week of the nomination to demand their senators oppose him. The groups are also planning a national day of protests August 26.

But abortion rights is hardly the only issue the Left is using to fight Kavanaugh.

End Citizens United (ECU) launched a $350,000 advertising campaign encouraging people to call their senators in opposition. The television spot argues that Kavanaugh poses a threat to the campaign finance system and government-run health care, in addition to abortion rights. The ad ran on national cable television from July 24 through July 30.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court threatens the well-being of millions of Americans and the future of our democracy,” ECU President Tiffany Muller said in a statement July 25.

“The American people deserve a justice who will side with them and protect their rights — not sell them out to Big Money special interests. We’re generating a groundswell of grass-roots support to pressure the Senate to reject Kavanaugh’s nomination, and we’ll hold them accountable.”

Related: Booker Demands Kavanaugh Recuse Himself from Trump Cases

The AFP began laying the groundwork for its campaign when the group launched a permanent judicial initiative in January and then focused on Kavanaugh when the president announced his nomination.

More people are coming forward to help than AFP has ever seen for a U.S. Supreme Court nomination, according to Field.

“We have seen historic engagement with respect to Judge Kavanaugh,” Field said. “Folks are energized; they care about this. They are calling constituents, they are knocking on doors, they are hosting events, our folks are writing op-eds and are engaged actively on social media. So we’re really seeing unprecedented engagement.”

The JCN launched a national cable, broadcast and digital campaign for $1.4 million as part of its efforts when the nomination was first announced. Most of their ads have been focused on Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia, states Trump carried heavily that have Democratic senators up for re-election this year.

“We are purposely going in at a lot of different angles,” Severino said. “We have a lot of grass-roots work being done, particularly in those red states with Democrats up for re-election.

“So there are so many different fronts. At the end of the day, I think it’s the people in those states being concerned about partisanship over principles that will ensure that those senators will do the right thing and vote for Brett Kavanaugh.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was among numerous Democrats who opposed the Kavanaugh nomination even before it was announced. Schumer has since led the Democratic charge to request an estimated 1 million documents related to Kavanaugh’s White House tenure working for President George W. Bush.

“We’ve seen the Democrats really failing to connect on hardly any of their attacks,” Severino said. “That’s because Judge Kavanaugh is just clearly one of the most qualified and experienced nominees, really, in history to the Supreme Court. It would be very hard to oppose him on anything but blatantly partisan grounds.”

Democrats have thus far refused to meet with Kavanaugh, with few exceptions, until their demand for documents is met. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other Senate Republicans see the Democrats’ demand for Bush-era documents as nothing more than an attempt to delay the nomination process until after the midterm elections in November.

Kavanaugh served in the White House as a senior associate counsel and assistant to Bush. He was later able to navigate a Senate confirmation when the former president nominated him to his current post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006.

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