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Conservative Organizes Campaign Against Nominee

October 22, 2005|Maura Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A conservative author and former speechwriter for President Bush has raised money to finance a TV advertising campaign aimed at sinking Harriet E. Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court.

David Frum of the conservative American Enterprise Institute said Friday that he expected the first ads to air next week.

Miers' nomination has drawn little enthusiasm among conservatives, some of whom complain that the president's White House counsel and former personal lawyer lacks the stature they had hoped for. Frum appears to be the first, however, to organize an active opposition to her.

"This is America," White House spokesman Jim Dyke responded when asked about Frum's efforts.

In an interview, Frum said he believed the nomination was vulnerable and a mistake. He pointed to a Rasmussen Reports poll suggesting that more Americans want Miers' nomination defeated than want it to succeed.

The poll, released on the firm's website Friday, found that 30% of respondents thought that Miers should be confirmed, whereas 34% did not -- a result at the edge of the 4-percentage-point margin of error.

One prominent conservative who has been critical of the nomination said that he supported Frum's effort and that the goal was less to stir public opposition to Miers than to press the White House to withdraw her name.

"We are interested in keeping pressure on the administration on this and continuing to focus on the question: Is this the best we can do?" said Manuel Miranda, founder of the Third Branch Conference, a conservative advocacy group.

Frum said a number of prominent donors, whom he would not identify, had contributed. He said the organization, still nameless, would be a legal entity within days. Allies said it was expected to be a so-called 527 organization, which could raise unlimited amounts of money for issues advocacy. As long as the group does not support a candidate for election, campaign finance laws do not require disclosure of its funding sources.

Frum said his donors included prominent lawyers who preferred to stay behind the scenes, in part because of what he called the administration's reputation for vindictiveness.

"The threat of retaliation is very real," Frum said.

One White House advisor involved in helping Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. gain confirmation said that Frum was misreading the country's mood -- that the Miers nomination was not a source of contention beyond the nation's capital.

"The reason the president is not thinking about withdrawing the nomination is that he knows that once you get past the Beltway, there is little if any support for that," the advisor said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to further antagonize conservatives.

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