by Todd Johnston
Also posted on Dailykos
This Fourth of July was a working holiday for friends and allies of President Bush, as the team behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth kick-started a new information campaign aimed at marketing the president’s choice for the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Sandra
Based in Alexandria, Va.,Campaign Solutions — the public-relations firm for Bush-Cheney ’04, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee — has been preparing for more than six months to help influence the confirmation process.
Becki Donatelli, an elite GOP rainmaker and chair of Campaign Solutions, has already fixed the network: well-known pundits and agitative Web sites to help raise funds and media wunderkinder to bring in image consultants, lead focus groups and make television commercials.
The Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN) is a post-office box and a Web site registered by Donatelli late last year, with Campaign Solutions as the point of contact. The JCN claims to be “an organization of citizens” that works “to ensure that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair.”
The JCN’s connections to White House insiders could not be more clear. Executive director Gary Marx was a political consultant for George W. Bush’s campaign at Century Strategies in 1999, when its founder and president Ralph E. Reed was allegedly helping his long-time friend Jack Abramoff swindle over $1.2 million from the Choctaw Indians. Marx also served as coalitions organizer for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004.
The other member of JCN’s “organization of citizens” is attorney Wendy E. Long, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Long was recently criticized for citing the results of a JCN-sponsored poll on MSNBC. Conducted by Republican pollsters Ayres, McHenry & Associates, the JCN-friendly results indicated that 82 percent of Americans supported the congressional “nuclear option,” a finding contradicted in other surveys by nonpartisan and bipartisan pollsters.
JCN has also hired Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the public-relations firm that “advised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” according to an Associated Press article featured on the website of
The Committee for Justice, another Donatelli client. CRC’s “advice” resulted in attack ads on presidential candidate John Kerry that Sen. John McCain denounced as “dishonest and dishonorable.” Ironically, Donatelli was the lead Internet consultant for McCain’s 2000 presidential run.
To the consultants at Creative Response Concepts, the distance separating “dishonest and dishonorable” and “fair confirmation process” is apparently not great — in physical terms, at least. Interview requests for CRC’s clients are routed through the main switchboard at a single telephone number; extensions 108 and 110 at the same number handle Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, while extensions 109 and 130 are for the Judicial Confirmation Network.
“Justice” for All
As already mentioned, Donatelli has her hand in far more Bush-loyalist pockets than a single Web site with two employees. Another Campaign Solutions client, the Committee for Justice, was spun up in May 2002 to counteract Democratic opposition in Congress.
The CFJ is a group of “eminent leaders, former government officials, legal scholars, and practitioners” who sell bumper stickers at KerrysScary.com The CFJ’s chairman is C. Boyden Gray, an heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune and legal counsel to George H.W. Bush. Gray represented Microsoft in its antitrust suit and was instrumental in getting NAFTA fast-tracked through Congress. Quoting an article in The New Republic, Sourcewatch.org writes that “so many different money trails lead to, by and through Gray it is bewildering.”
But Gray’s current trail leads to the White House and Karl Rove. According to a May 24 story in The Washington Post, Gray was encouraged to form the CFJ by Rove after being recruited by Sen. Trent Lott.
Accepting the charge, Gray proceeded to raise substantial funds from business executives and corporations by arguing that “federal judges increasingly will determine the fate of class-action lawsuits that have been the bane of business for years.” The Post also writes that Gray received help from his “mentor” George H.W. Bush, who provided his Houston home for a fund-raiser that netted $250,000 for the CFJ.
A Familiar M.O.?
Donatelli, Campaign Solutions, Creative Response Concepts, the Judicial Confirmation Network, the Committee for Justice — a well-organized public-relations campaign, guided by officials in the executive branch of the U.S. government to influence the makeup of the Supreme Court.
Rove, Gray and Donatelli have been building this war room since 2002. Nearly a month before O’Connor’s announced retirement, the CFJ’s Web site ran a press release written by the Associated Press’s Deb Riechmann — a favorite of the administration — promoting and elaborating on the JCN’s true reach. Riechmann wrote:
The newly formed Judicial Confirmation Network distributes information through…conservative groups, including Focus on the Family, Americans for Tax Reform, Family Research Council and the Americans for Limited Government. The network has operations, manned by paid staff, up and running in Virginia, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska and Colorado….
“…We’ve been saving our quarters,” said [Wendy] Long, a…mother of two who took a leave from her job as a partner in a New York law firm to help coordinate the effort. “We’re roughly budgeting a few million for ads for the Supreme Court fight.”
But Donatelli, Marx, Long, CRC and Republican pollsters don’t work for quarters. The JCN has money — enough to pay everyone plus a “few million” in television ads. The Committee for Justice has plenty of money, courtesy of C. Boyden Gray, as well as a common goal with and such ties to JCN as Bush-Cheney ’04, Donatelli and Creative Response Concepts.
The CFJ is a nonprofit, both a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4 — it also comprises the Committee for Justice Foundation. But the Judicial Confirmation Network’s executive director, Gary Marx, is the veteran GOP campaigner and fund-raiser who previously worked for Ralph E. Reed and Century Strategies.
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