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ADVERTISING MUD SLINGING ACCELERATES IN SUPREME COURT NOMINEE BATTLE

Liberal, Conservative Groups Field Shrill Commercials

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The ad battle over President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee is officially turning nasty.

Photo: AP
President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito.
As liberal groups opposed to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito launched a campaign claiming the right wing is trying to take over the court, conservative supporters of the nomination attacked back.

Following an ad buy by liberal group People for the American Way, the Committee for Justice responded with a $100,000 buy of its own, mostly on radio, running in seven states slated for next week. The group also plans TV spots in the Washington area.

Not warm and fuzzy
“In 1990, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Samuel Alito to serve on the ... Court of Appeals. Today, liberal groups led by People for the American Way oppose Judge Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” the ad said. “Their agenda is clear. They want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and are fighting to redefine traditional marriage. They support partial birth abortion, sanction the burning of the American flag, and even oppose pornography filters on public library computers.”

The ad was created by Policy Impact Strategic Communications, Washington.

The ad from the People for the American Way isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy, either. It starts with the words, “Katrina, indictments, Iraq” then claims “George Bush’s presidency is in trouble and he will do anything to protect it,” before suggesting the Supreme Court “belongs to all of America, not just the radical right.”

Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, said the group plans to follow up with ads more specific about judicial issues. “We are telling a story,” he said.

Accused of sidetracking
In a statement issued today, Mr. Neas accused the Committee for Justice of trying to sidetrack the discussion of judicial philosophy. “Why is the Committee for Justice talking about People for the American Way? Because they’d rather not talk about how Sam Alito’s legal philosophy will undermine Americans’ rights if he gets a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.”

The Alliance for Justice, a coalition of 70 groups that includes the National Abortion Rights League, said it is buying both local and national TV ads. One spot, saying, “The right wing has already taken over the West Wing. Don’t let them take over your Supreme Court,” is set against a backdrop showing conservative Republicans including Rush Limbaugh.

No dignified debate
Progress for America, which has been spending the most in support of the nomination, meanwhile, announced a $150,000 ad buy. Its new 60-second spot airing on cable channels features former clerks of Judge Alito and was created by McCarthy Marcus Hennings, Washington.

“Attacks on Judge Alito by People for the American Way sink to a new low in what should be a dignified debate,” Progress for America’s president, Brian McCabe, said in a statement.

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