A dark money group pushing for liberal justices is running digital ads exclusively in Iowa calling for packing the U.S. Supreme Court, a move that if undertaken during a Democratic presidency would shift the ideological makeup of the court.
The campaign by the group Demand Justice is spotlighting an op-ed by former Iowa attorney general Bonnie Campbell which ran in the Des Moines Register claiming that maintaining the status quo on abortion law could only be realized through the court-packing strategy.
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In particular, Campbell pointed to numerous state-level abortion laws passed this spring in Republican-leaning states like Alabama.
"This wave of anti-abortion legislation is a direct result of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court last fall," Campbell wrote. "Anti-choice state legislators clearly believe Trump’s promise that he would only appoint justices who would ‘automatically’ overturn Roe v. Wade, and they are rushing to pass laws that would give the Supreme Court that opportunity."
"The only way to truly preserve access to abortion is to add more justices to the Supreme Court," she concluded.
The ad buy to promote Campbell’s piece could reap as many as 100,000 impressions in Iowa. It launched on the same weekend that the first primary state in the nation was hosting nineteen presidential candidates from the Democratic field.
Whether the group will expand the court-packing ad campaign is not currently known, as requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon to Demand Justice were not returned.
Late Monday afternoon, Demand Justice also sent a message to their email subscribers outlining an even larger strategy, including the following points (emphasis original):
1) Change the law so the next Democratic president can add justices to the Court
2) Enact term limits to lower the stakes of each nomination
3) Impose a code of ethics (because FYI…the Supreme Court doesn’t have one)
The group has run other digital ads targeted mainly at early primary states. For example, previous Demand Justice ads targeted at Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have attempted to delegitimize Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by claiming he perjured himself during his Senate confirmation hearings.
A recent report by the Daily Beast indicates the group will soon target House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler in an attempt to force the New York Democrat to request Kavanaugh-related documents from the National Archives. They hope those documents would help prove their accusations that Kavanaugh was untruthful before the Senate.
Demand Justice is not a PAC or a standalone nonprofit. Rather, the group "operates as an unincorporated entity organized by a tax-exempt fiscal sponsor," said a recent report from the Center for Responsive Politics.
"That sponsor is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit named Sixteen Thirty Fund, which provides a legal home and steers money from secret donors to more than 40 different unincorporated entities that are consequently not required to file separate tax returns or other incorporation documents."
Those layers help obscure funding sources for the group that is headed up by Brian Fallon, a former press secretary for Hillary Clinton.
A recent in-depth report by the conservative-leaning Capital Research Center showed the Sixteen Thirty Fund is a part of a web of groups that have successfully marshaled and moved $1.6 billion dollars on behalf of liberal causes between 2013 and 2017.
Outside of the messages being pushed in the early primary states, Demand Justice has also been in a back-and-forth feud with Colorado senator and presidential hopeful Michael Bennet for not being liberal enough on his judicial-voting strategy, giving him an ‘F’ grade.
In particular, Demand Justice has hit Bennet for not filibustering President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, who at the time had been serving in federal district court in Bennet’s home state of Colorado. Bennet, however, ultimately voted against Gorsuch’s confirmation.
When Democrats did eventually filibuster Gorsuch, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell employed the same nuclear option Democrats had launched years earlier, thereby clearing the path for Trump’s first nominee to the high court.
"The reason I said we shouldn’t filibuster Gorsuch was very simple," Bennet told Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press. "Gorsuch was a trade of [Justice Antonin] Scalia for Gorsuch. And we allowed Mitch McConnell to invoke—not only allowed him, gave him every opportunity—to use the nuclear option on Gorsuch instead of forcing him to wait [to use the nuclear option] for Kavanaugh."
"We didn’t have the discipline, unlike Mitch McConnell, to play it strategically. We were not strategic, and as a result, when Kavanaugh got there, Democrats could do nothing except pretend to our base that we were fighting."
Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar is the only other senator running for president who received the same failing grade from the liberal group.
According to an analysis by Axios, the Democratic presidential candidates who support court packing or are open to the idea include Pete Buttigieg, Kirstin Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Jay Inslee, Andrew Yang, and Wayne Messam.