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527 Watch: Judicial Confirmation Network

An organization called the Judicial Confirmation Network has a new ad up linking Barack Obama to Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright.

Oddly, the group is not a 527. Rather, they're a "judicial confirmation war room" that publicly consists of two employees, a post box, and a website. Originally created in November 2004 by Becki Donatelli, a Republican PR doyenne who chairs Campaign Solutions (the firm used by Bush-Cheney '04, McCain 2008, the RNC, the NRCC, and even the 527 Vets For Freedom), the JCN's original purpose was to shepherd Bush's Supreme Court justices to confirmation.

Nobody knows exactly where its money comes from, but JCN seems to have a lot of it. During the 2005 and 2006 confirmation battles, it vowed to spend about $18 million on ads and a multistate ground operation to put grassroots pressure on legislators. Now it claims that it's spending over $1 million against Obama. The only official tally of its expenditures is $80,000 for lobbying services from Covington & Burling.

JCN is run by Gary Marx, a former Bush-Cheney operative who is seriously steeped in the ways of outreach to the Christian Right. Indeed, in 2007, Mitt Romney hired him to placate concerned parties about his stances on judicial nominees. The other employee, Wendy Long, is a former clerk for Clarence Thomas.

I'm not an expert on campaign-finance law, but it seems a little odd that a seemingly unregulated organization can just raise money and buy anti-Obama ads without leaving any record. I'm still looking into the issue. Can any of our readers shed some light on this in the meantime?

--Barron YoungSmith

Update: Readers, I'll be keeping track of 527 organizations as they run ads. If you see any, please email me information about the ad and the group at Thanks.