The Selling of Judge Brett Kavanaugh


The 10 days since President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to join the Supreme Court have seen a coordinated campaign to cast the judge as distinguished, impartial and moderate. That has included glowing op-eds from left and right in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and quotes from his former clerks about his love of football and how he ”will never, ever go wobbly.” Kavanaugh even appeared at a photo-op feeding the homeless.

This is, of course, no coincidence. Shortly after Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination, political reporters received an email from CRC Public Relations. “Would you be interested in speaking with any of Judge Kavanaugh’s former clerks or any legal experts that can help with your stories?” it began, and included a link to a list of quotes describing Kavanaugh as “wonderful,” “brilliant” and “incredible.”

CRC Public Relations is a staple of the conservative public affairs ecosystem. The firm, originally called Creative Response Concepts, was founded in 1989 but first achieved prominence in 2004, when it coordinated the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, a nationwide PR and advertising campaign to cast doubt on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s war record.

Since then, CRC has been behind the curtain for nearly every conservative cause, including the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council and the Republican Party itself. During the development of the Affordable Care Act, current Florida Gov. Rick Scott tapped CRC to help roll out ads describing the horrors of socialized medicine in Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2009, as America debated the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, CRC reportedly sent more than 60 emails to a Washington Post reporter offering editorials, quotes describing the justice as an extremist and “a Web posting accusing Obama of race-baiting in selecting her.”

Though few are publicized on its website, CRC’s links to the conservative movement are numerous. Its current president, Greg Mueller, was communications director for conservative Pat Buchanan during his 1992 and 1996 Republican presidential campaigns. Eugene B. Meyer, the president of The Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that developed a list of judicial nominees for Trump, told The New York Times in 2005 that he received media training from CRC. Last year, Republican strategist and Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway sold her polling company to the firm.

CRC’s role in the campaign to confirm Kavanaugh, too, appears to go beyond pitch emails. The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal organization that reportedly spent $10 million on the campaign to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch last year, has already announced $3.8 million in spending to air pro-Kavanaugh ads in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia states where senators could be wavering on their confirmation vote. According to the group’s most recent tax filing, the Judicial Crisis Network paid CRC $1.4 million for public relations from July 2015 through June 2016. The “about” page of the Judicial Crisis Network’s website directs queries to CRC.