Advocacy Groups Spend Millions In Emerging Battle Over Supreme Court Vacancy

Gun Rights

Topline

Conservative judicial activist group Judicial Crisis Network announced a $2.2 million ad campaign on Monday to urge the Senate to take up and speedily confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, just one of many groups wading into the growing big-money battle over the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Key Facts

The Judicial Crisis Network’s first ad, called “Follow Precedent,” gives examples of recent Supreme Court justices confirmed in under 44 days – the number of days until the election – and notes 8 out of 10 vacancies during election years were confirmed.

The ad will run in Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Maine and Utah, as well as Washington, D.C. aimed at reaching vulnerable Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), as well as potential swing vote Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

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The group has also committed to spend at least $10 million in total to work to fill the vacancy, the same amount progressive group Demand Justice is reportedly planning to spend to stop senators from filling the vacancy.

Democrats appear to have the upper hand in terms of fundraising, with liberal fundraising platform ActBlue raising nearly $145 million since Ginsburg’s death on Friday.

Democratic group Fix Our Senate announced a six-figure ad buy shortly after Ginsburg’s death, with its first ad hitting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for arguing in 2016 that a Supreme Court nominee shouldn’t be confirmed in an election year.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by billionaire Charles Koch, told CNBC that it would support a nominee “in line with their priorities,” like Trump’s past Supreme Court nominees, while tax-exempt 501(c)(4) nonprofit group Article III Project said it would be “fully engaged to support and defend President Trump’s nominee.”

Big Number

$10.4 million. That’s how much the Brennan Center estimates was spent on television ads focused on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. $4 million of that came from the Judicial Crisis Network, while the National Rifle Association spent $1.2 million and Demand Justice and America First Policies each spent $1.1 million apiece.

Tangent

Even non-judicial focused groups are planning to get involved, with spokespeople for pro-Biden super PACs American Bridge and Priorities USA both telling CNBC they plan to spend on the Supreme Court debate, including “traditional oppo (ethics, finances, controversial statements, etc,)” on Trump’s eventual nominee from American Bridge. On the Republican side, Pro-Trump PAC America First Action said it too would enter the fray. Several groups that spent big on Kavanaugh, such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the State Government Leadership Foundation, have not said whether they will spend.

What To Watch For

With a 53-seat majority, the nomination will ultimately come down to a handful of Republican senators. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have both come out in opposition to voting on a nominee before the election, but did not say whether they would vote to confirm if a vote did come to the floor. Romney and Gardner have not yet weighed in.

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