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In Run-Up to Alito Confirmation Hearings, Experts Predict Biggest Ad War Since Bork

January 5, 2006

For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 5, 2006

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

In Run-Up to Alito Confirmation Hearings, Experts Predict Biggest Ad War Since Bork
After Holiday Reprieve, Sides Gird for Battle

NEW YORK AND WASHINGTON, DC The prospect of bitter and expensive public relations campaigns over the Alito nomination, dominated by interest group advertising, is almost inevitable, according to two public interest watchdogs.  The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign, which have jointly monitored and analyzed TV advertising in state judicial election campaigns and in this years three nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, expressed hope that the media blitz will focus public debate on the fundamental issues at stake, rather than merely on advertising tactics.

To date, interest groups have spent about $650,000 on TV advertising for and against the Alito nomination, with recent media reports suggesting that the figure will rise dramatically in coming weeks, as new ad campaigns are unveiled.  Earlier this year, interest groups combined to spend $1.3 million during the nomination period for Chief Justice John Roberts, and about $325,000 on the nomination of Harriet Miers prior to her withdrawal.  An additional $250,000 was spent prior to the naming of any potential nominees.  While estimates of spending on the 1987 Bork nomination are hard to pinpoint, media accounts suggest that interest groups may have spent several million dollars.

Everything we hear suggests that this will be the biggest ad war since the Robert Bork nomination, said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.  This could be a key moment for education about the Supreme Court or just another partisan mudbath.

Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, noted that interest groups have become major players in supporting or defeating state judges in the last decade.

Interest groups have every right to play their part in the democratic process.  But if the advertising for and against Judge Alito turns into the kind of sound bite campaign that are becoming common in state judicial elections, Americans will be fed a table full of empty calories, said Brandenburg.  The result will be less education and more cynicism about the vital role of our courts. 

The latest television advertising figures unchanged since the last report due to an advertising cease-fire over the holiday season show that interest groups have combined to spend just under $650,000, with conservative spending accounting for 54 cents of every television advertising dollar, compared to 46 cents for the liberal groups, according to records compiled through January 1.  Updated advertising expenditure figures, which are expected to show a sharp spike in advertising, will be released next week, in the middle of the Alito confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill.

The data for the project is gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks the nations top 100 broadcast markets and national cable advertising and provides estimates on the cost of each TV spot.  Data and previous releases, as well as storyboards and streaming video of ads available to date, are available at and