Monday, May 02, 2005

Ad campaign to help GOP in judicial confirmation fight


Ad campaign to help GOP in judicial confirmation fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — An organization with strong Republican ties intends to spend $1.5 million on television commercials over next two weeks to help Senate GOP leaders in a showdown over President Bush's judicial nominees.

The group, Progress for America, "will also run $350,000 of radio ads on Christian stations," according to a memo describing the plans.

The effort underscores the political stakes in a struggle that revolves immediately around seven controversial appeals court nominees — but also has implications for any Supreme Court vacancy that occurs during Bush's term.

Democrats blocked 10 of the president's first-term appeals court nominees by filibuster, a parliamentary tactic that requires supporters to post 60 votes to assure a final vote.

The president renominated seven of the 10 after he won re-election. Democrats say they are prepared to block some or all of them again on grounds that they are too conservative to warrant lifetime appointments to the bench.

Republicans have responded by threatening to use their majority to ban juidicial filibusters.

"Senate Democats have abused the rules and refused to even allow a vote," says the television ad produced for Progress for America. "So courtrooms sit empty, while thousands of Americans have their cases delayed."

Progress for America scheduled news conference for Monday to unveil its plans, and officials declined to discuss them in advance. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the material to be made public.

The ad praises two of Bush's seven stalled nominees, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen. It says it's the job of a senator to vote, adding, "Urge your senators to vote, up or down."

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, criticized the ad. "Apparently no one at Progress For America has studied the Constitution or a U.S, history book, because their advertising campaign is intended to undermine a carefully chosen system of check and balances that has served this country well for more than 200 years," he said.

Reid and Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee both outlined proposed compromises on the issue last week. At the same time, the two are trying to line up the votes needed to prevail in a showdown over doing away with filibusters on judicial nominations. There are 55 Republicans in the Senate, two of whom have publicly announced plans to side with the Democrats on the issue.

A relatively small number of senators is believed undecided or even vulnerable to political pressure on the issue, and the ad campaign is targeted toward those who are.

Progress for America intends to advertise in a half-dozen low-cost states in the coming week, Alaska, Arkansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota and Rhode Island according to the memo. GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has announced plans to vote with the Democrats while Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are publicly uncommitted. Some Republicans also have expressed concern about Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's willingness to follow the party leadership on the issue.

The ad campaign includes $750,000 for one week of statewide broadcast and cable advertising in the six states, to be followed by a week of national cable television commercials.

Including its web site advocacy and other measures, Progress for America claims it will spend $3 million over the next two weeks.

The organization has previously advertised in favor of Bush's proposal for voluntary personal accounts under Social Security. It spent several million dollars last year in an independent effort to help Bush win a second term.