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In Roberts Confirmation Battle Air War, Advertisers Target “Gang of 14” Senators

September 8, 2005

For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 8, 2005

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

In Roberts Confirmation Battle Air War, Advertisers Target Gang of 14 Senators
So Far, Groups Messages Focus More on Process than on Results

NEW YORK & WASHINGTON, DC As John Roberts’ confirmation hearings approach, interest groups are focusing their television ads on states represented by Senators from the so-called Gang of 14, that prevented a filibuster showdown earlier this year, according to a new analysis of paid television advertising in the Roberts confirmation battle performed by the Brennan Center for Justice and the Justice at Stake Campaign.  The targeting is clearest with groups opposed to the nomination; supporters are also directing ads to states represented by Judiciary Committee members.

The analysis also reveals that supporters and opponents of Judge Roberts nomination are focusing primarily on process issues in their advertising rather than direct calls for his confirmation or defeat, which could explain the targeting of this critical bipartisan group of 14 Senators.  The Gang of 14 forestalled a change in Senate rules over judicial filibusters by negotiating a procedural deal earlier in the year, and have remained at the political center in debates over judicial nominations since then.

By focusing on the confirmation process, both sides are adopting a more elevated tone than usual, but the messages are not truly outcome-neutral, said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.  If both sides were genuinely interested in protecting impartial and independent courts, their messages would not flip (as they do) with a change in administration.

The most recent ad aired by Progress for America which supports the Roberts nomination argues that a fair judge deserves to be treated fairly.  Urge the Senate to give John Roberts a fair up or down vote.  And the most recent ad from NARAL Pro-Choice America argues that Roberts legal record raises questions on whether he accepts the right to privacy.  Theres just too much at stake to let John Roberts become a decisive vote on the Supreme Court.

Virginia, the home of Republican Senator John Warner, has seen the most ads from groups opposed to the Roberts nomination, with nearly 200 airings of spots at an estimated cost of $60,318.  The state of Maine with two Republican Senators in the Gang has seen 136 ads from opponents costing $43,117.  Two other states with Republican Gang members South Carolina (Senator Lindsey Graham) and Rhode Island (Senator Lincoln Chafee) have seen a total of over $40,000 in ads from groups opposed to the Roberts nomination.  The only Democrat in the Gang of 14 thus far targeted by opponents of Roberts is Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, where $20,160 worth of ads opposing the nomination have aired.  Nelson was a leader in the Gang of 14 group.

The battle for the center of the Senate has been joined, said Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of the Justice at Stake Campaign.  Moreover, Roberts opponents may already be looking past the Judiciary Committee to head-counting on the Senate floor.

Conservative supporters of Judge Roberts nomination have invested the vast majority of their advertising money ($1.6 million) into national cable television buys, which reach viewers in all 50 states.  Small media buys have targeted Democratic Gang of 14 Senators from Colorado (Senator Ken Salazar), Connecticut (Senator Joseph Lieberman), and Hawaii (Senator Daniel Inouye), as well as Republican John Warner of Virginia.  Both liberals and conservative groups have spent equally in the Washington, DC market, an area that is considered key to reaching influential policy shapers outside the halls of Congress.

From January 1 through September 4, interest groups have spent an estimated $2.13 million on ads meant to influence selection and confirmation of a nominee.  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.