The Judicial Confirmation Network: Making Sure The Judges Are All "Right"

May 19, 2009 12:18 pm ET

President Obama hasn't announced his pick for the Supreme Court, but the Judicial Confirmation Network has already launched negative ads against several possible candidates. Who is really behind the attacks?

On May 18, 2009, the Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN) launched "Obama's Frontrunners," a new website seemingly aimed at raising money to fight the president's eventual Supreme Court nominee.  The site features short ads that "expose the records" of potential picks Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Sonia Sotomayor. JCN is clearly gearing up for a fight. So who are they?

JCN's Stated Mission: Making Sure The Judicial Confirmation Process Is "Fair"

The Judicial Confirmation Network Supports The Confirmation Of "Highly Qualified" Judges. According to the organization's website: "The Judicial Confirmation Network is an organization of citizens joined together to support the confirmation of highly qualified individuals to the Supreme Court of the United States. In addition, JCN works to ensure that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote." [JudicialNetwork.com, accessed 5/18/09]

The Judicial Confirmation Network Believes That "A Judge...Should Not Use The Power Of The Court To Impose His Or Her Political Agenda.  According to the organization's website: "We believe that the proper role of a judge or justice is to interpret the law and the Constitution - not make up the law and deprive the people of the right to govern ourselves. We believe that a judge or a justice should not use the power of the court to impose his or her personal or political agenda on the people." [JudicialNetwork.com, accessed 5/18/09]

However, the Judicial Confirmation Network clearly has a political agenda, and nothing about the organization's history or leadership suggests they are interested in being "fair." In reality, JCN is just another right-wing front group.

JCN Started Out As A Republican PR Project To Help Confirm Bush's Supreme Court Nominees

The Judicial Confirmation Network Was Created By A Republican Public Relations Guru "To Shepherd Bush's Supreme Court Justices To Confirmation." As reported by The New Republic, the Judicial Confirmation Network "publicly consists of two employees, a post box, and a website. Originally created in November 2004 by Becki Donatelli, a Republican PR doyenne who chairs Campaign Solutions (the firm used by Bush-Cheney '04, McCain 2008, the RNC, the NRCC, and even the 527 Vets For Freedom), the JCN's original purpose was to shepherd Bush's Supreme Court justices to confirmation." [The New Republic, 2/10/08]

The Judicial Confirmation Network Distributed Information Through Other Far-Right Organizations.  As reported by the Associated Press: "The newly formed Judicial Confirmation Network distributes information through other conservative groups, including Focus on the Family, Americans for Tax Reform, Family Research Council and the Americans for Limited Government...The network, coordinated by Gary Marx, a Bush-Cheney campaign official, and Wendy Long, has also has hired a public relations firm that advised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that accused Kerry of inflating his Vietnam War record during last year's presidential campaign." [Associated Press via JudicialNetwork.com, 6/9/05]

  • The Judicial Confirmation Network Hired Swift Boat PR Firm Creative Response Concepts. On February 6, 2005, U.S. News & World Report reported that the Judicial Confirmation network had hired Creative Response Concepts, "the Virginia PR firm that advised the controversial, anti-John Kerry swift boat veterans last fall." [U.S. News & World Report, 2/6/05]

JCN Director Gary Marx Is An Operative For The Religious Right

The Judicial Confirmation Network's Executive Director Is Gary Marx.  According to the organization's website: "The executive director of the Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN) is Gary Marx. Gary came to the JCN following a stint as a coalitions organizer for the Bush-Cheney 04 national campaign. Before joining the Bush-Cheney team, Gary served as Development Director and lobbyist for The Family Foundation of Virginia. Gary is also president of Principium Consulting a public policy and public affairs consulting firm." [JudicialNetwork.com, accessed 5/18/09]

Gary Marx Is "Steeped In The Christian Conservative Movement." As reported by National Journal, Gary Marx "is steeped in the Christian conservative movement, having gotten his start in 1999 as executive director of the Virginia Christian Coalition. He has also worked for former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed at Century Strategies, and at the Virginia affiliate of Focus on the Family. He ran outreach to social conservatives for Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns." [National Journal, 7/9/05]

Gary Marx Joined Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign As Part Of The "National Faith And Values Steering Committee." The Chicago Tribune reported that Mitt Romney's presidential campaign announced "a new religious team... the national Faith and Values Steering Committee," which included Gary Marx. [Chicago Tribune, 6/13/07]

Gary Marx Is Also The Vice President Of Century Strategies, LLC.  According to Century Strategies' website: "As the President of Principium Consulting, Inc., and Vice President with Century Strategies, LLC, Gary Marx has a variety of political and organizational experiences which help him serve his clients. He currently works on numerous corporate, non-profit, and campaign projects. His most high profile work has come as the Executive Director for the Judicial Confirmation Network during the successful confirmation battles of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Past clients include Let Freedom Ring, Christian Blind Mission International, and the California Republican Party." [CentStrat.com, accessed 5/18/09]

  • Century Strategies Was Founded By Republican Strategist Ralph E. Reed, Jr. According to Century Strategies' website: "Ralph Reed is founder and president of Century Strategies, a public relations and public affairs firm with offices in Atlanta and Washington...As chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 2002, he helped elect U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, Sonny Perdue as the first GOP Governor in 130 years, and gained control of state Senate for first time since Reconstruction... Reed has worked on seven presidential campaigns and currently serves as Chairman of the Southeast Region for the Bush-Cheney '04 and campaign manager in Georgia. He has advised 88 campaigns for U.S. Senate, Governor and Congress in 24 states. Reed has been named one of the top ten political newsmakers in the nation by Newsweek, one of the twenty most influential leaders of his generation by Life magazine, and one of the 50 future leaders of America by Time magazine. As executive director of the Christian Coalition (1989-1997), he built one of nation's most effective grassroots organizations." [CentStrat.com, accessed 5/18/09]
  • Ralph Reed Was "Spear Carrier For The Religious Right." As reported by Time magazine: "Reed was the preternaturally boyish spear carrier for the religious right, the brash Evangelical who transformed the Christian Coalition into a populist power center, then helped usher Republicans into control of Congress and George W. Bush into the presidency." [Time, 7/23/06]
  • Ralph Reed Was Tied To Jack Abramoff. As reported by Newsday: "A House investigative committee in 2006 concluded that Reed interceded with the Bush White House to help some of Abramoff's clients, and Reed said later he regretted the actions." [Newsday, 8/14/08]

JCN Counsel Wendy Long Has Big-Time Conservative Credentials

 The Judicial Confirmation Network's Counsel Is Wendy Long.  According to the organization's website: "Wendy Long is legal counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network. Until March 2005, she was a litigation partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Wendy was a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and to Judge Ralph Winter of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. She is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, cum laude and Order of the Coif, where she was articles editor of the Northwestern University Law Review, and of Dartmouth College. She previously served as a press secretary in the U.S. Senate, for former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong (R-Colo.) and former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-N.H.)." [JudicialNetwork.com, accessed 5/18/09]

  • Wendy Long's Former Law Firm, Kirkland & Ellis, Is A Known Stomping Ground For Prominent Conservatives. The Chicago Tribune reported: "John Bolton, the outspoken former Bush administration official and UN ambassador, is joining Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis as a senior adviser...Bolton worked as a senior arms-control policymaker in the State Department and became known for his hawk-like views toward Iraq, Iran and North Korea and a belligerent [sic] personal style. His nomination as United Nations ambassador in 2005 became a highly charged affair... Kirkland & Ellis has long been known as a comfortable environment for prominent conservatives. It still employs former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, now the dean of the law school at Pepperdine. And many former and current legal luminaries in the Bush administration worked there at some point in their careers. [Chicago Tribune, 3/10/08; emphasis added]

Wendy Joined Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign To Help "Woo Social Conservatives."  As reported by The American Spectator, Mitt Romney was credited with a political coup last Tuesday when it was announced that Wendy Long has joined his campaign as a senior legal advisor and vice chair of his National Faith and Values Steering Committee... Long is an articulate spokesperson both to bolster Romney's conservative credentials and to take aim at [Fred] Thompson, the opponent who clearly will pose a threat to his efforts to woo social conservatives." [The American Spectator, 7/30/07]

The Judicial Confirmation Network claims to be committed to a fair confirmation process. However, their definition of "fair" seems to be whatever advances the agenda of the radical right.   

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