WASHINGTON: A host of public-interest groups and liberal PR agencies went on the offensive last week to influence, if not block, the Senate confirmation of attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales.
Anti-torture group Human Rights First worked with PR firm M&R Strategic Services to publicize a letter from 12 retired admirals and generals, including Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticizing Gonzales' role in the War on Terror. Gonzales was involved in the production of a series of memos in 2002 justifying harsh interrogation tactics for captured prisoners.
"Our goal all along was to ensure this guy didn't get a rubber stamp just because he comes from humble circumstances and is Hispanic," said Sean Crowley, M&R's SVP of media relations. He acknowledged that Gonzales is likely to be confirmed, but added, "You don't always fight every PR war knowing you're going to win it."
Church Folk for a Better America used DC-based agency The Hauser Group to circulate its own letter, signed by more than 225 global religious leaders, calling on Gonzales to denounce torture and affirm his support of the Geneva Conventions.
Hauser VP Tyler Prell said the amount of scrutiny Gonzales received would depend largely on how harshly he was questioned during the hearings. "Everyone agrees he's going to be confirmed; it's just a matter of how serious and detailed and lengthy a discussion there is about the torture issue," he said.
Republicans used interviews and media alerts to emphasize the support that Gonzales has received from national Hispanic groups. One GOP official told PRWeek, "Hispanic voters are watching this. ... Gonzales represents the American dream."
A laundry list of organizations, including the Communications Workers of America, the National Organization for Women, and the Open Society Policy Center, issued a statement urging the Judiciary Committee to "closely scrutinize" Gonzales, but there were few public calls for his outright rejection.