Garland Pick Generates New Lobbying on Both Ends of Spectrum

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By Nancy Ognanovich

May 3 — Powerful forces on both ends of the political spectrum joined the lobbying battle over the nomination of Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court in recent weeks, with a dozen groups reporting expenditures in the first quarter of this year that includes work on President Barack Obama's embattled nominee.

The groups officially registered to lobby on Garland's nomination range from the American Association for Justice, the trial lawyers' organization which supports his confirmation, to the National Federation of Independent Business, which views Obama's pick as a threat to their pro-business agenda.

Among the other groups that specifically registered to lobby on Garland's nomination since it was announced by Obama in mid-March are many groups active on abortion, gun, and civil rights issues. And while they are not registered to lobby explicitly on Garland's nomination, many other large and powerful groups—including the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Action—also reported that they are active on lobbying related to the Supreme Court.

The amounts reflected in the lobbying disclosure reports for the period ending March 31 do not reflect specific lobbying expenditures related to the Garland nomination, which is among many subjects the various groups seek to influence. But they demonstrate increasing efforts to influence the composition of the court and are part of a larger effort now playing out in the states that includes expensive advertising campaigns, particularly on the home turf of Republican incumbents, to influence the handling of the nomination.

Snapshot of Influence-Seeking

Obama nominated Garland, currently chief judge for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, March 16. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted that the Senate will not consider the nomination this year and rejected calls to even have hearings on the nomination. Since then, 32 Democrats and 14 Republicans have met with Garland but a spokesman for McConnell said May 3 that the leader isn't reconsidering his stance.

McConnell announced early on that his efforts were being supported by the NFIB and National Rifle Association, two organizations with well developed lobbying shops as well as networks of state organizations (See previous story, 03/22/16). Other groups with conservative agendas also announced their intent to oppose the nomination.

The NFIB reported $854,000 in lobbying expenditures in the first quarter, but a spokesman said in reality the group so far has spent very little on traditional lobbying on the Garland nomination. While it broke from its tradition of staying out of Supreme Court fights, the business group's expenditures mostly were aimed at influencing tax, regulatory, and other matters before Congress during the same period, said spokesman Jack Mozloom.

NFIB Shows Garland ‘Bias.'

Mozloom said the NFIB's primary contribution so far to the fight in Washington was to produce and distribute to all Senate offices a 107-page analysis of Garland's 235 opinions while on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals as well as his law articles. The scorecard he said was produced by the NFIB's in house legal arm shows a bias by Garland in favor of federal regulatory agencies, organized labor, and environmental groups.

The American Association for Justice spent even more in the first quarter on lobbying—$1.380 million. But a spokesman for the trial bar declined to say how the group spent that money and how much of it was used to press senators to advance Garland's nomination.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association's legislative office didn't file a report indicating it was lobbying on Garland's nomination per se. But a rival group, the Gun Owners of America, reported it was active on the issue and had total expenditures of $334,919.

Guns, Reproductive Rights

Among the other groups registered to lobby on Garland's nomination are the Planned Parenthood Action Fund with $266,270 in expenditures and Planned Parenthood Federation of America with $49,000 in expenditures. NARAL Pro-Choice America said it spent $50,000 during the same period.

Also active on the nomination was the League of Conservation Voters with $40,000 in expenditures. Common Cause said it spent $30,000. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said its expenses totalled $304,446.

At the other end of the spectrum, the conservative Family Research Council reported first quarter lobbying expenditures of $10,000. The National Right to Life Committee said it spent $60,000 during the same period.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Ognanovich in Washington at nognanov@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

For More Information

The reports are available at the Lobbying Disclosure Database at http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=selectfields.