Groups weigh in on filibusters

WASHINGTON: As a vote nears in the Senate to curb the power of the filibuster, interest groups on both sides of the contentious issue are launching major media offensives.

WASHINGTON: As a vote nears in the Senate to curb the power of the filibuster, interest groups on both sides of the contentious issue are launching major media offensives.

Hill Republicans are considering rolling back use of the filibuster, in which a minority defeats a proposal by refusing to allow a vote, so it can no longer be used to stop confirmation votes for judicial nominees, an issue that has been a thorn in President Bush's side.

People for the American Way Foundation (PFAW) and Alliance for Justice (AJ) are two major groups opposed to curbing the filibuster's power, while the Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN) is supporting the filibuster's end.

This month, the three groups have been airing a flurry of mostly television ads, both on national cable television networks and in targeted areas, to communicate their points of view.

Laurie Boeder, director of media relations for PFAW Foundation, said her organization had budgeted $5 million for the campaign, which includes grassroots and field operations, as well as TV ads produced by Norman Lear. The ads are also targeted in 8 different states to influence senators who are on the fence on the issue.

"For the first time in more than 200 years, there is an attempt to get rid of the filibuster, a key check and balance in our system," she said.

AJ communications director Julie Bernstein said her organization's campaign, Save Phil, featuring cartoon character Phil A. Buster, is designed to drive viewers to a website with more information on the issue.

The initial buy was $150,000, and ads have been seen on national cable news and Comedy Central's The Daily Show, as well as targeted to Virginia, Oregon, Maine, and Nebraska.

JCN executive director Gary Marx, said he is working with a coalition of more than 75 organizations, providing them with talking points and issue alerts.

He added talk radio is a key component of the campaign.

"Our feeling from a PR perspective is that radio is particularly impactful in this particular fight," Marx said.

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