Democrats play down influence of ‘dark money’ justice group in KBJ confirmation

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“Honestly, I don’t know much about them,” said Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If you choose the ACLU, or the [Center for American Progress] these are groups we have worked with. They are not to us what the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society are to “Republicans.”

“Remind me again who they are?” asked Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “I can see why Republicans would want to try to create a big bad wolf, but they’re not that big and they’re not that bad. And I don’t think they are wolves.

Republicans are focused on Demand Justice as they plan to ask Jackson if she supports adding seats to the High Court, a question White House officials have made clear she does not plan to answer. After the first day of his confirmation hearings, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) reiterated that adding Supreme Court seats is a political matter and stressed that previous nominees, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett , declined to comment on the matter. Republicans counter that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer have publicly opposed adding seats to the court.

For Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon, questions about his group are a “badge of honor.” And though Senate Democrats play down his influence, Fallon hasn’t been shy about comparing Demand Justice to conservative groups, including the Judicial Crisis Network.

“It’s obviously hypocritical for [Republicans] complaining about left-wing advocacy groups when all we’re trying to do is catch up with the network of groups that have long been active on the right for the past 40 years,” Fallon said in an interview. “But I don’t think it has succeeded in derailing or challenging the confirmation prospects of any of Biden’s nominees over the past year, including Ketanji Brown Jackson.”

It’s hardly surprising that Senate Democrats don’t pass Demand Justice. The Liberal group, which started in 2018, criticized the party for not doing enough to prioritize federal justice. Demand Justice also opposed the successful bid of Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill) for the Judiciary Chair and previously lambasted Democratic senators who voted for the Bench Judicial nominees. former President Donald Trump. More recently, Fallon has criticized Democratic senators who recommend corporate lawyers become district and circuit judges.

Sen. Thom Tillis (RN.C.) said Monday he plans to ask Jackson about Demand Justice’s influence.

“They’re calling for the expansion of the Supreme Court, the expansion of the lower courts,” Tillis said. “The question that comes to mind, as I try to have my own theme around forensic philosophy…It’s just the fundamental question: ‘why are they all here?’ Because they’re very driven by their priorities, and I’m trying to figure out what that connection might be.

Republicans and Democrats have criticized the use of “dark money” to push for Supreme Court confirmations. The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative justice group, has taken millions of dollars in ad buys to lobby for confirmation from Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Demand Justice has previously run ads opposing Barrett and Kavanaugh’s confirmations and recently announced a $1 million ad buy shortly after Biden nominated Jackson.

Fallon said the group’s support for Jackson was prompted by broader pressure for Democrats to prioritize judicial candidates with diverse work backgrounds, including public defenders.

During the first day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) described the Supreme Court as “the court that black money built” and denounced the influence of the Federalist Society in former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court selections.

Carrie Severino, president of Judicial Crisis Network, fired back, asking why Whitehouse “is strangely obsessed with JCN while conveniently laundering” other liberal “dark money” groups.

Durbin suggested on Monday that Democrats were prepared to counter Republican attacks, telling Jackson “there may be others who claim that you are before us today as a product of a campaign by black money groups…. Your record — and the process that led to your appointment — belies such claims.

He said after the hearing that although he knows some of the Demand Justice staff, “I really don’t know their strategy.”

Democrats argue that if Republicans are concerned about “dark money,” they should sign legislation that would release the names of organization donors to a wide range of political nonprofits. Republicans, however, said such laws would undermine free speech and freedom of assembly.

“Count us as the many people on the Democratic side who would be willing to make a deal with the Republicans,” Fallon said. “But until then, we are not going to disarm unilaterally. In fact, the fact that we’ve waited so long is one of the main reasons we’re 6-3 at the moment.

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