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Defying Predictions, Interest Groups Still Quiet in Roberts TV Battle

September 15, 2005

For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 15, 2005

Contact Information
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998–6736
Jesse Rutledge, Justice at Stake, 202 588–9454

Defying Predictions, Interest Groups
Still Quiet in Roberts TV Battle

Hurricane Katrina, Roberts Re-Nomination to Chief Justice Reshape Broadcast Battle

NEW YORK & WASHINGTON, DC Despite a weeks delay in the start of the confirmation hearings for Judge John Roberts, the numerous special interest groups aligned on both side of the battle have largely stood down, at least when it comes to spending on TV advertising campaigns designed to influence the public debate and the U.S. Senate.  That conclusion comes from an analysis of the latest television advertising data in the Roberts confirmation battle, conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign.

The analysis indicates that in the week ending on the eve of the confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, none of the many groups who have staked out positions for or against Judge Roberts confirmation ran any new television ads.  And only two groups NARAL Pro Choice America and Progress For America continued to run substantial TV advertising .  NARAL spent an estimated $295,028 on a spot that questions Judge Roberts commitment to the right to privacy, while PFA spent $160,200 airing an ad urging the Senate to give Judge Roberts a fair up or down vote.

Interest groups that planned to run TV advertising may be conserving their resources in anticipation of the next high court nomination, said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, referring to the forthcoming naming of a nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day OConnor.

From January 1 through September 11, interest groups have spent an estimated $2.53 million on ads meant to influence the selection and confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee.  That figure is substantially lower than many experts had forecast, and about 20 percent lower than the estimated $3.3 million spent by advocacy groups during this springs Senate showdown over the use of filibusters in the judicial nomination wars.

The national political landscape has shifted dramatically in recent weeks. Hurricane Katrina is drawing most of the medias attention, and the additional vacancy has changed the dynamics of the confirmation battle, said Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of Justice at Stake.

For many years, interest groups have doubled as surrogates for political partisans, and have come to play a dominant role in federal judicial politics.  Activity by the groups has not been limited to modest television advertising, however.  Interests on both sides of the debate have developed a cottage industry of specialized websites, blogs, and email alerts around the Supreme Court nominations, designed to mobilize grassroots supporters and to attract media coverage to their organization and their issues.

More data, as well as storyboards and streaming video of all of the ads, are available online at and

About this project:
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign are teaming up to provide regular snapshots of the television advertising campaigns related to the confirmation of Judge John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The groups regularly collaborate on analyses of interest group advertising in state Supreme Court elections.  The data for the project is gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks advertising in the nations top 100 Designated Market Areas and on national cable television.