Liberal groups outspending conservatives on Alito awareness

WASHINGTON: Liberal groups are now spending more money than their conservative counterparts to protest the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, whose confirmation hearings begin January 9.

WASHINGTON: Liberal groups are now spending more money than their conservative counterparts to protest the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, whose confirmation hearings begin January 9.

The latest spending figures come from the Justice at Stake Campaign and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. The biweekly report looks at spending on TV advertisements.

Between November 21 and December 4, a coalition of liberal groups called IndependentCourt.org spent $131,594 airing a TV ad that is sharply critical of Alito - representing almost twice as much as the $74,400 spent during the same period by Progress for America, the only group to air advertising backing Alito.

This is the first time since President Bush nominated John Roberts five months ago that liberal groups have outspent conservatives in this year's series of Supreme Court battles, according to the data.

"After lagging behind their foes all summer and fall, liberals are turning up the heat and conservatives are unlikely to cede them the field as the confirmation hearings approach," said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign.

IndependentCourt.org, whose members include Alliance for Justice, People for the American Way, and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, is planning to focus its anti-Alito efforts in Maine and Rhode Island, where the state's Republican senators are viewed as undecided on his nomination. TV and radio spots will focus on Alito's position on reproductive rights.

The data does not compare spending on other outreach channels. But both liberal and conservative groups are using grassroots and viral tactics to get their messages across.

In a separate effort, Alliance for Justice last Monday launched a public education initiative called Rolling Justice. Activists will travel by caravan through 11 swing states to spread their anti-Alito message to residents prior to the start of the confirmation hearings.

As predicted, though, conservative groups have refused to yield any ground. The day after the launch of Rolling Justice, for example, Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN) launched an Internet ad campaign that defends Alito's argument that the police were justified in strip-searching the young daughter of a man suspected of dealing drugs. Alito's position in the case had come under attack by liberal groups.

JCN said the ad would be distributed to its state affiliates and a network of coalition partners, reaching a total of about 10 million citizens.

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