Nonprofits, PACs Pour Big Bucks Into Ad War Over Kavanaugh Nomination
The groups hope to sway senators who are publicly still on the fence about the Supreme Court nomination.
As the countdown begins on the FBI’s investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, outside groups hoping to tip the scales on a nomination with the potential to cement a right-wing bloc on the Court for a generation aren’t holding back.
Rather than pulling back while the FBI interviews some—but reportedly not all—of the three women who have publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, nonprofits, political action committees and advocacy groups are mounting a massive pressure campaign in the hope of swaying senators who are publicly still on the fence about confirming the federal judge to a lifetime post on the highest court in the land.
The Judicial Crisis Network launched a new $1.5 million advertising campaign on cable and broadcast television, running ads featuring longtime female friends of the judge defending his integrity against what it called a “smear” campaign. The group has also conducted multiple state-specific polls showing that the majority of constituents in Arizona and West Virginia—home to as-yet undeclared voters Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Joe Manchin, respectively—want Kavanaugh to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
In opposition to Kavanaugh, the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America released new ads aimed at Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine, telling constituents of the three potential swing votes that Kavanaugh “has lied every single time he has appeared under oath before the U.S. Senate.”
Demand Justice, a liberal dark money group founded in response to Merrick Garland’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court under President Barack Obama, released on Sunday an advertisement highlighting the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that during a party when she and Kavanaugh were both in high school, he drunkenly attempted to rape her.
In the ad, which will run this week on cable channels in Washington, D.C., and on cable and broadcast networks in Alaska and Maine, Ford is shown telling audiences of women across the country that “the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.”
At its conclusion, the advertisement ends with the caption “We believe Dr. Blasey Ford,” adding, depending on the state: “Does Susan Collins/Lisa Murkowski?”
Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, told The Daily Beast that in addition to the six-figure ad buy for the D.C., Alaska and Maine markets, the group also made a five-figure cable buy in San Francisco, so that Dr. Ford and her family might see it. The PAC has promoted the “#IBelieveChristine” hashtag on social media channels.
Some of the mobilization by groups who are against Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been even more direct.
During the “Red Mass,” a Catholic mass celebrated before the Supreme Court convenes on the first Monday in October, Demand Justice protesters convened at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. to hand out “I Believe Christine Blasey Ford” buttons to those attending the service.
Protesters chanted “we believe survivors” as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Solicitor General Noel Francisco exited the cathedral, where Chief Justice Thomas Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas—himself confirmed in the midst of credible allegations of sexual misconduct made under oath—were both in attendance as well.
Some organizations are hoping that the renewed focus on the Senate could have a greater political effect than just the vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Indivisible, a group founded following President Donald Trump’s election, announced that it would re-launch its nationwide phone bank in the hopes of flipping the Senate.
“Democrats need five seats to retake control,” said Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of Indivisible. “We are targeting five key states—Tennessee, Arizona, Mississippi, Texas, and Nevada—that are vital if we want to ensure a hearing like [Thursday’s] never happens again.”
Another campaign, mounted by two Maine-based political action committees and progressive activist Ady Barkan, has raised a stunning $1.7 million to be spent on behalf of Collins’ as-yet unchosen Democratic opponent in 2020 if Collins fails “to stand up for the people of Maine and for Americans across the country” by voting against Kavanaugh.
Although every modern Supreme Court nomination has sparked fierce battles over the confirmation of a lifetime appointee, the bloody fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination has been fiercer than any since that of Robert Bork. Kavanaugh began the confirmation process with the strong backing of conservative groups and Republican senators, who pointed to his time as the coach of a girls’ basketball team and a carpool dad as evidence of upright character. But a cascade of accusations of sexual assault have severely damaged his approval ratings among the American public, making him the least popular Supreme Court nominee in decades.
That vulnerability, coupled with the harrowing testimony of Dr. Ford and a razor-thin Republican majority in the Senate, has made the war over Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation more divisive than any in recent memory.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which historically does not take a stance on candidates for political or judicial office, announced that it would oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, only the fourth time that the group has taken such a stance in nearly a century.
“The ACLU’s board of directors, deeply concerned by the allegations raised in recent weeks, has made a rare exception to its longstanding policy and voted to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” said Susan Herman, president of the ACLU. “As a nonpartisan organization, the ACLU does not oppose Judge Kavanaugh based on predictions about how he would vote as a Justice. We oppose him in light of the credible allegations of sexual assault against him.”
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him, furiously telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that although he “was not perfect” as a student at Georgetown Preparatory School, he “never did anything remotely resembling” what Ford and others have accused him of.