Business & Lobbying

Barrett ad war exceeds Kavanaugh fight

Greg Nash

The ad wars over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination are in full swing, with groups matching or exceeding the amount they spent two years ago in the confirmation fight over Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The conservative Judicial Crisis Network on Tuesday kicked off a $3 million ad buy in battleground states, part of a $10 million campaign in support of her nomination, the same amount it spent in 2018.

The progressive group Demand Justice, however, is doubling its $5 million ad buys from the last fight, pledging to spend $10 million this time around.

The Judiciary Crisis Network is emerging as one of the biggest spenders. The group spent $10 million to back Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed 54-45 in 2017, and $7 million to block former President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by billionaire mega-donor Charles Koch, recently launched ads to urge senators to confirm Barrett. The spots are running in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

The group would not specify how much it plans to spend on Barrett’s confirmation battle, only saying it would be in the seven figures. In 2018, it launched a seven-figure effort for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Casey Mattox, Americans for Prosperity vice president for legal and judicial strategy, said the organization has already led more than 100,000 letters and calls to senators since Saturday, the day President Trump announced Barrett as his nominee to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18.

For Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the group drove 200,000 letters and calls to senators. Mattox said they expect to exceed that amount with Barrett.

The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List launched a six-figure digital ad buy featuring a video about Barrett on Saturday as part of an overall seven-figure investment to support her nomination. The group would not specify spending plans beyond that, nor would it divulge how much it spent on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The anti-abortion group had already said it plans to spend $52 million on the 2020 elections. Mallory Quigley, Susan B. Anthony List vice president of communications, said spending for Barrett’s nomination would be separate from the $52 million but argued the two issues — the November elections and confirmation battle — are complementary. 

“The confirmation and the election are intertwined. We must confirm President Trump’s nominee and reelect him and this pro-life Senate so that we can maintain the victories,” Quigley said.

On the other side of the abortion debate is Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides reproductive health care for women.

Planned Parenthood declined to say how much it would devote to fighting against Barrett’s confirmation. The organization previously said it was planning to spend at least $45 million on political and advocacy programs related to the 2020 elections.

Planned Parenthood Votes said it is evaluating whether to change the content of its electoral ads to address the Supreme Court vacancy. So far, they have launched one electoral ad to that effect.

The ad, launched after Ginsburg’s death but before Barrett’s nomination, is running in battleground states Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“This is more than Justice Ginsburg’s seat — it’s the people’s seat. Planned Parenthood Action Fund will rise up and fight to stop Amy Coney Barrett, and any nomination, before the 2021 Inauguration,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

Liberal groups that have been more forthcoming with their spending plans include Demand Justice, which debuted its national television ad against Barrett on Tuesday. The ad will air in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina and highlights the implications of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and the need for Congress to focus on coronavirus relief.

The group committed to spending $10 million in opposition to Barrett’s nomination, which will include those ad buys. In an effort to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, it spent $5 million and aimed ads at pressuring moderate Republicans against his confirmation. Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate in a 50-48 vote.

“There’s a pandemic devastating every corner of the country. But they’re just rushing to play politics with the court. It’s a lifetime appointment — tell senators to do it right,” the Demand Justice ad says.

If GOP senators confirm Barrett before Nov. 3, it would be the closest to Election Day that a Supreme Court justice has been confirmed by the Senate.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump judiciary crisis network Merrick Garland Neil Gorsuch Planned Parenthood political ads Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court
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