Bush administration hires comms help as Supreme Court battle is likely to heat up

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration last week tapped Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee Chairman and co-chairman of DC-based Quinn Gillespie & Associates, to help manage communications strategies for the expected fight in the Senate over w

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration last week tapped Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee Chairman and co-chairman of DC-based Quinn Gillespie & Associates, to help manage communications strategies for the expected fight in the Senate over w

Gillespie is expected to move temporarily from Quinn Gillespie's offices to work in the White House during the confirmation process. Gillespie, who was on vacation last week and was unavailable for comment, is expected to play a behind-the-scenes PR role.

"Ed Gillespie is fantastic," said Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative group that will be devoting almost all its resources to support the President's nominee. "He was one of the key architects of the messaging of the Republican revolution in 1994."

The Committee for Justice, formed three years ago by former President Bush's chief counsel C. Boyden Gray, exists to serve as a hub of information - talking points, reports, and media materials - for the press and other conservative groups working on judicial nominations.

"We see our position, PR-wise, as defensive in nature," Rushton said. The group hopes to neutralize liberal organizations by putting out a report, issuing a statement, and holding a press conference every time groups opposed to the nomination do, he added.

Until the White House names a replacement, liberal groups will provide reporters with information on what O'Connor's role was on the court in the hope that the President will be pressured into choosing a consensus nominee who will not provoke a fight in the Senate, said Peter Montgomery, VP of communications for People for the American Way.

"The only attacks out there so far have been from the right," Montgomery said. "They started running ads even before there was a resignation saying, 'Liberals are getting ready to attack.' They accuse of us of being attack dogs and then they immediately went on the attack against Alberto Gonzales."

The communications tactics employed by the groups supporting and opposing the Supreme Court nominee are going to be very similar, said Gail Hoffman, who worked as a director in the communications office of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign and ran her own PR firm in the 1990s.

Hoffman, who now serves as VP for strategic initiatives at US Newswire, said groups are likely to use brand-new communications tools, such as powerful media-monitoring services, that weren't around during last year's presidential campaign.

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