Thursday, November 03, 2005

Interest Group Showdown Over Alito Likely to Trigger Major TV Air War; Data on Ads to Be Released by Brennan Center, Justice at Stake

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A study of interest group reactions to this year's Supreme Court nominations shows that the pick of Judge Samuel Alito could well trigger the kind of confirmation battle not seen since Judge Robert Bork was voted down in 1987.

The data show many groups announcing their support or opposition much more quickly than for either the John Roberts or Harriet Miers nominations, leading analysts to believe that spending on TV ads over the Alito confirmation battle will far eclipse the estimated $2.4 million spent on the Roberts nomination.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign have been teaming up this year to provide regular snapshots of the television advertising campaigns for and against the confirmations of Judge John Roberts, Harriet Miers, and Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Positions on Judge Alito have hardened on both the left and the right very rapidly," said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. "These interest groups will be looking to exert influence over the process as it unfolds, and TV ads will be a major part of their strategy. The question is whether the American public will be exposed to a meaningful debate, or an exchange of code words and scare tactics."

Two major liberal groups -- People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice -- announced opposition to Judge Alito's nomination within hours. Each took more than a month before formally opposing the Roberts nomination, and neither announced an official position on Miers. MoveOn.org circulated an email promising to place an ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call if it garnered 500,000 signatures in a petition against Judge Alito.

Conservative groups have already begun television advertising campaigns. Progress for America, which ran four distinct ads urging an "up or down vote" for Roberts or Miers, was first out of the box again, with a new ad touting the President's re-do. Drumming the message, PFA's new spot says: "Urge the Senate to give Samuel Alito a fair up or down vote." The Family Research Council has announced plans to run spots charging that "activist judges are erasing God from our public square." The ad does not mention Alito, but the FRC announced how "encouraged" it was by his nomination at a press conference previewing the ad.

"Both sides are about to empty their war chests to stoke their bases and woo the center," said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign. "In the coming weeks, the battle will play out in America's living rooms." Brandenburg added that running television advertising over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is expensive, requiring these groups to put an emphasis on raising additional funds to remain visible.

The data for the project is gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks the nation's top 100 broadcast markets and provides estimates on the cost of each television spot. Data and previous news releases, as well as storyboards and streaming video of ads available to date, are available online at brennancenter.org and justiceatstake.org. Reporters who wish to receive e-mail updates as the data becomes available should contact Jesse Rutledge of Justice at Stake at 202-588-9454 or http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=56137&Link=mailto:jrutledge@justiceatstake.org.

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