Thursday, January 06, 2005

Corporate America to spend millions to back Bush's conservative judicial picks

from the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — A powerful business lobby is preparing a multimillion-dollar campaign to aid the White House in its quest to win approval for conservative judges, a move that could transform the ideological battles over the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court.

The new effort on behalf of some of the nation's biggest manufacturers will increase the cost, visibility and intensity of an already divisive confirmation process, one that has been dominated by social issues.

The shift puts the business lobby on the same side as social conservatives. The corporate world has long shied away from such controversial issues as abortion, but enthusiastically supports the Bush administration's campaign to rein in what it considers frivolous lawsuits against businesses and physicians.
Longtime observers said the involvement of well-heeled organizations such as the manufacturers' group — which represents such large, blue-chip firms as General Motors, Boeing and Caterpillar as well as 10,000 small and medium-sized manufacturers — could increase pressure on moderate senators whose votes helped block confirmation for 10 of the 34 Bush nominees to federal appeals courts in the past two years. Several of those senators face reelection in 2006 and are already facing threats from religious conservative leaders if they try to block conservative jurists.

"It's certainly going to up the ante and increase the pressure on vulnerable Democratic senators," said one senior Democratic Senate aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I can't think of a similar situation where a group so little identified with such a debate is getting involved at this level in this way."

It was not clear Wednesday to what extent, if any, Engler was coordinating with administration officials. White House spokeswoman Erin Healy declined to comment on that, saying only that the administration "welcomes support of the president's judicial nominees."

Engler said he was finalizing plans with the group's board to establish a new organization, the American Justice Partnership, which would be housed inside the National Assn. of Manufacturers, or NAM. Engler said his initiative would focus on federal nomination fights — as well as state judicial issues — and it would be dedicated to grass-roots politics, not policy.

He hopes it will take advantage of the expansion of another NAM-funded group, the Business Industry Political Action Committee, or BIPAC, which operates get-out-the-vote and communications drives on behalf of business-friendly candidates.

During the 2004 campaign, BIPAC received credit for increasing pro-business turnout in battleground states, reaching 19 million employees with more than 40 million tailored messages. BIPAC president and chief executive Greg Casey confirmed recent discussions with Engler that he said could lead to an expansion of BIPAC's traditional role.

Check off another box or three on that 14-point list of the characteristics of fascism.


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