- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2021

Anti-Trump group Defending Democracy Together is spending $1 million on a new ad campaign urging the confirmation of Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general and touting her support from the political right.

Ms. Gupta took leave as head of the liberal Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to pursue confirmation to the Justice Department job.

Defending Democracy Together, which is led by Never Trump advocate Bill Kristol, said the ad campaign would air nationwide on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. The group said its campaign will be targeted online toward audiences in states such as Maine, Alaska and West Virginia, which are home to three senators who could determine the outcome of Ms. Gupta’s nomination: Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican; and Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat.

“Leading conservatives support her so let’s stop playing politics. Confirm Vanita Gupta,” a narrator says in the 30-second ad. “And let’s build an America we can all believe in.”

Ms. Gupta’s conservative opponents have already spent large sums opposing her campaign. As part of a broader effort focused against President Biden’s nominees, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network said last month it was spending $800,000 opposing Ms. Gupta’s confirmation. 

“In Vanita Gupta, President Biden has nominated a liberal activist who supports defunding the police and brings to the job her experience leading a left-wing dark money group,” said Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino in a statement announcing her group’s opposition. “President Biden promised to unify and heal this country, but he couldn’t have picked a more divisive figure to help lead the DOJ.”

The term “dark money” refers to groups that are not required to disclose their donors, which also includes the Judicial Crisis Network. 

The Defending Democracy Together campaign spotlights letters of support for Ms. Gupta to the Senate Judiciary Committee from conservative politicians. In its announcement of its pro-Gupta advocacy campaign, the anti-Trump group noted Ms. Gupta’s support from “right-of-center leaders on criminal justice reform” including Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. 

In a letter to the judiciary committee in January, Mr. Norquist wrote in his personal capacity to say that Ms. Gupta was an honest and capable nominee. 

“I expect to have many arguments with the Biden administration and probably even the Biden Department of Justice,” Mr. Norquist wrote. “But I have come to know and respect Ms. Gupta through our common work on criminal justice issues. I have found her to be strongly qualified, effective, principled and driven by a desire to seek common purpose and consensus.”

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Ms. Gupta’s nomination is scheduled for March 9. 

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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