Judge Wars Hit Airwaves

CAROUSEL - Robert J. Halderman aka Joe Halderman who attempted to blackmail David Letterman. CBS

A pair of outside groups are gearing up to spend millions of dollars on radio and TV ads to pressure senators on the looming showdown over President Bush's judicial nominations.

The conservative group Progress for America started it Monday with an ad buy urging Senate Republicans to use the so-called "nuclear option" to stop Democratic filibusters of judges, CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss reports.

The liberal group People for the American Way quickly countered with its own ads.

"We do not intend to let their ads go unanswered," said Ralph Neas. "We're working with the masters of deception and distraction that brought us the Swift Boat smears," he added in a reference to last year's campaign attacks on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Neas spoke less than an hour after Progress for America, which has strong Republican ties, unveiled a commercial designed to pressure wavering Republicans and help assure quick approval for Mr. Bush's judicial nominees.

Over the next two weeks, Progress For America intends to spend $350,000 on "radio ads on Christian stations" and $1.5 million on television ads in six targeted states as well as nationally.

"Senate Democrats have abused the rules and refused to even allow a vote," says the television ad. "So courtrooms sit empty, while thousands of Americans have their cases delayed."

The ad says it's the job of a senator to vote, adding: "Urge your senators to vote, up or down."

Neas, whose group has strong Democratic ties, said it would air its commercial in the same media markets. He said the group would spend more than $1 million over two weeks on television, radio and newspaper advertisements.

The ad criticizes the two nominees that Progress for America defended in its own commercial, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown.

"Too much power's a dangerous thing," it says, referring to Rebublican threats to ban judicial filibusters.

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