Feb 20, 2016 8:47 AM

Steinhauser: Outside group defends Ayotte Supreme Court stance in new ad airing in NH

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Even if she’s not asking for it, Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s getting some support from a third party group over her stance that the next president rather than President Barack Obama fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

An ad by the Judicial Crisis Network titled “Let the People Decide” backs Ayotte and four other fellow Republican senators who face tough re-election battles this year.

The conservative group says they’ll spend seven-figures to run the 30-second TV spot in the Manchester/Boston media market, as well as in markets covering Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John McCain of Arizona, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The spot will also air in the Washington DC television market on the Sunday talk shows and in parts of Kentucky, in support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who first announced last Saturday one hour following the unexpected death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that the “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

A couple of hours after McConnell’s statement, the President took to television to announce that "I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.”

A Republican source with knowledge of the ad buy told NH1 News that the commercial would start running on New Hampshire airwaves on Friday and on cable starting Saturday.

“It’s We the People. Sometimes the politicians forget that. The Supreme Court has a vacancy. And your vote in November is your only voice. Senator Kelly Ayotte agrees; the American people should decide,” says the narrator in the spot.

“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats it’s about your voice. You choose the next president. The next president chooses the next justice. Call Senator Kelly Ayotte. Thank her for letting the people decide,” concludes the narrator.

The Judicial Crisis Network is a non-profit 501c4 group which says it’s "dedicated to strengthening liberty and justice in America through advocating for judges who will uphold the Constitution and the rule of law."

Last year the group went up with ads in the Granite State accusing Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who was running for the GOP presidential nomination, of appointing liberal judges back home in New Jersey.

The group’s support comes one week after Ayotte challenged her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, to join her in taking the Peoples Pledge, which was first used in the 2012 race between then Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.

The pledge would require either candidate that benefits from third-party spending (from Super PACs, 501c4 groups, and other outside organizations) to folk over 50% of the cost of that ad buy to a charity of the opponent’s choosing.

Hassan responded, adding urging that a campaign spending cap be added, which Ayotte turned down. Both candidates criticize the other for an unwillingness to take the pledge.

The day after Scalia’s death, Hassan urged a timely confirmation, saying "the Senate needs to put politics aside and fulfill its constitutional duty by taking up a Supreme Court nomination in a timely fashion. It would be completely unacceptable, and a clear sign of Washington's dysfunction, for the Supreme Court to be without a justice for a full year because of partisan politics.”

A couple of hours later Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte weighed in, writing "we’re in the midst of a consequential presidential election year, and Americans deserve an opportunity to weigh in given the significant implications this nomination could have for the Supreme Court and our country for decades to come. I believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the American people have spoken by electing a new president.”

Hassan, along with plenty of pro-Democratic party groups, has criticized Ayotte’s stance. Ayotte has defended her voting record in the Senate on judicial nominations.

The contest between Ayotte and Hassan is one of the most high profile, expensive, and nasty Senate battles this year.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party Friday fired away at Ayotte.

"Kelly Ayotte has taken plenty of heat from editorial boards and her constituents alike on her obstructionism and refusal to consider a Supreme Court nominee, so her Koch-linked backers are swooping in to bail her out with a new dark-money ad campaign,” state Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said.

“But one question remains: Does she agree with her special interest supporters that Justice Souter, a Granite Stater, was a bad appointment to the Supreme Court?”

The Judicial Crisis Network was critical of Souter in an ad they released last summer.

The Ayotte campaign responded.

"Given the significant implications this nomination will have for our country, Kelly wants to ensure that Americans have a voice in deciding the next Supreme Court Justice. It’s disappointing that Governor Hassan and Washington Democrats don’t want voters to have a say, and have tried to cover up past arguments for not moving lifetime appointments in presidential election years," said campaign manager Jon Kohan in a statement to NH1 News.

"Just last week Governor Hassan declined to sign the People’s Pledge to protect the voices of voters from being drowned out by third party special interests, and now for the second time in only a week Gov Hassan is again siding against the voice of the people," he added.

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