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Interest Groups Ready for Supreme Court Battle

Conservative and liberal groups sprang into action quickly with word of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's (search) retirement, telephoning supporters and firing off e-mails to mobilize backers for a high-stakes Senate confirmation battle.

With O'Connor's announcement Friday representing the first test of these organizations' clout in the Internet Age, people on both sides of the political spectrum flooded their backers around the country with e-mail and pager alerts, telling them about the retirement and calling for their help.

People for the American Way (search), which set up a war room specifically for the Supreme Court (search) battle in downtown Washington, immediately sent out thousands of e-mails to its supporters and was setting up phone banks to make calls around the nation to build up support for Senate Democrats.

"The American people must be part of this great debate over our future," president Ralph Neas said.

MoveOn PAC immediately announced a cable television they would spend $280,000, a realtively small amount, in Maine, Nebraska, South Carolina, Virginia, New York City and Washington, D.C., trying to discourage Bush from picking a strict conservative.

"Will George Bush pick an extremist who will threaten our rights?" the commercial asks.

Pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood, already are scheduling rallies around the nation to push President Bush to not choose a hard-right conservative for O'Connor's seat. "With so much at stake, Planned Parenthood will be on the frontlines of the Supreme Court battles to ensure women's health is protected," said interim president Karen Pearl.

"Progress for America stands ready to defend whomever President Bush nominates from the Left's character assassination campaign," said Brian McCabe, PFA's president. "The president's nominee deserves real consideration not instant attacks."

Progress for America has already said it expects to spend $18 million to get Bush's nominee confirmed to the Supreme Court, and has already started running television and radio ads around the nation.