politics

Democratic Dark Money Groups Prepare Campaign to Support Biden's Supreme Court Nominee

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
  • Democratic dark money groups are gearing up for a multimillion-dollar campaign to back President Joe Biden's eventual nominee to the Supreme Court.
  • Demand Justice, a nonprofit group led by veteran Democratic strategists, told CNBC it is planning to spend whatever it takes to support the president's pick to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
  • Building Back Together, a separate nonprofit run by party strategists, has signaled to donors and allies that it is likely to raise and spend up to $10 million.

Democratic dark money groups are gearing up for a multimillion-dollar campaign to back President Joe Biden's eventual nominee to the Supreme Court.

Demand Justice, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group led by veteran Democratic strategists, has said it is bracing for a possible fight in the Senate over Biden's pick to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who aims to retire this summer provided his replacement is confirmed. The group told CNBC it is planning to spend whatever it takes to get the nomination through the Senate.

Building Back Together, a separate nonprofit run by Biden allies, has signaled to donors and those close to the organization that it is likely to raise and spend up to $10 million to back the nominee, according to people familiar with the matter. These people declined to be named in order to speak freely about private planning.

Emails to Building Back Together were not returned before publication. That group has backed and promoted much of Biden's agenda, including a $10 million ad campaign touting the president's signed infrastructure bill. Danielle Melfi, the executive director of the group, previously was a Wisconsin state director for Biden's 2020 campaign for president. Stephanie Cutter and Addisu Demissie, two veteran Biden allies, are listed as advisors of the group.

While Democrats have a slight edge in the Senate, due to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote, the groups appear not to be taking anything for granted.

The Senate is split 50-50, with centrist Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema being two of the Democratic lawmakers needed to approve key pieces of legislation and judicial nominees. Both lawmakers are expected to vote in favor of Biden's Supreme Court pick, with the Senate having confirmed at least 40 of the president's judicial picks.

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., another key vote with the party's narrow majority in the Senate, had a stroke but is expected to be back to work in four to six weeks.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is among a group of Republican lawmakers who say they want to support Biden's nominee to the Supreme Court. Murkowski said on Sunday that she wants to see a nominee that will get bipartisan support.

Neither Demand Justice or Building Back Together is required by law to publicly disclose its donors. Demand Justice was previously a project of another dark money group, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, before it split off. The Sixteen Thirty Fund raised over $380 million in 2020 and donated over $320 million in grants to various groups that year, according to their most recent 990 tax disclosure form. The fund also does not publicly disclose their donors.

Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon, who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign for president, told CNBC that there's no limit to how much they may end up spending to help push through Biden's nominee.

"We expect the Senate will act to confirm Biden's pick quickly but we will do and spend whatever is needed to ensure that ends up being the case. This is a history-making moment to put the first Black woman on the court," Fallon recently told CNBC.

Biden's has vowed to choose a Black woman as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Potential nominees include federal Judge J. Michelle Childs, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. He said he expects to make his pick by the end of this month.

Demand Justice has already held an organizing call with a variety of other outside groups, such as Black Lives Matter Global Network, MoveOn and the Sunrise Movement to discuss tactics that aim to push lawmakers to quickly pass Biden's nominee. Progressive Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., was also on the strategy call.

Demand Justice has launched a site that encourages and helps people call their senators as a way to pressure them to vote in favor of Biden's eventual selection.

"Will you call your senators and urge them to act fast to confirm Justice Breyer's replacement?" the website asks.

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