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Conservative PR Firm That Repped Swift Boat Vets Now Helping Fight Sotomayor

By Jerry Markon
When conservative leaders wanted to criticize the White House over Sonia Sotomayor’s record on crime, they turned to a little-known Alexandria public relations firm that has been quietly leading the charge against President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Attack videos on Sotomayor and other finalists? Abortion polling data that supports the conservative cause?

Time to bring in CRC Public Relations, a hard-charging outfit headed by Pat Buchanan’s former presidential campaign communications director. CRC's unfailingly polite staffers aren’t shy about pushing alternative views of Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic justice if confirmed. At least nine of them sent more than 60 e-mails to a single Washington Post reporter in recent weeks, pitching anti-Sotomayor editorials, statements attacking her as a liberal activist and a Web posting accusing Obama of race-baiting in selecting her.

CRC, whose conservative pedigree extends back to promoting the Contract with America in the mid-1990s, organized this week’s conference call rebutting a White House event that supported Sotomayor’s record on law enforcement. The firm coordinated similar calls that unveiled videos blasting Sotomayor and other perceived finalists for the nomination -- before anyone was selected -- and discussed the data showing that Americans want to uphold abortion regulations already in place.

“They are among the most powerful and consequential people you’ve never heard of, and they like it that way," said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who has worked with CRC for years. “CRC is one of the first entities that is called whenever there is a major public policy initiative for most conservatives."

Estuardo Rodriguez, a Washington publicist who works with Hispanic organizations supporting Sotomayor, called CRC a conservative “attack dog” firm pitching a message “that will not work. They have a very difficult job. This nominee has such an amazing record that anyone who criticizes her for being a judicial activist... simply has not reviewed her case history."

CRC was founded with $15,000 in 1989 by Leif E. Noren, a former executive director of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. He remains the firm’s chairman. Its president is Greg Mueller, who aggressively promoted Buchanan’s 1992 and 1996 presidential runs.

From a non-descript building in an office park near Old Town, CRC’s 30 staffers energetically represent clients such as the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, and the Judicial Confirmation Network, which has issued near-daily blasts against Sotomayor. Past clients have included the Republican National Committee and the Christian Coalition.

CRC is also known for its role in representing "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," a group of former Navy veterans whose attack on the war record of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) helped derail his presidential campaign in 2004. The firm also represents ousted HCA/Columbia chief Rick Scott and his advocacy group, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, which plans to spend up to $20 million on ads this year attacking President Obama's health-care reform efforts.

“Part of our culture is to be proactive," said Keith Appell, CRC’s fast-talking senior vice president. “We know that the key to success is out-hustling the competition. If you work hard and are respectful, it will usually yield results."

Appell said the firm maintains a database of “tends of thousands” of media contacts, has doubled its staff in recent years and expects business to continue growing in the Obama era. He acknowledged that political clients are “almost always center-right" but says there is no litmus test for hiring and that the firm employs people of all political backgrounds.

Appell would not comment on CRC’s position on Sotomayor or his personal feelings about her, saying “it’s not about us, it’s about the clients." He added that CRC’s business, which was mostly political in the 1990s, has grown increasingly corporate in recent years.

“When you’re working for Visa and Chevron, a lot of what we do for them has nothing to do with politics’’ he said. “All that matters is can you do the job.’’

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 11, 2009; 3:16 PM ET
Categories:  Supreme Court  
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Next: National Women's Law Center Lends Its Advocacy to Sotomayor


Hey, you guys are late getting your lies in. I'm disappointed, normally you are the first liars off the mark - slowing down in your old age.

Posted by: Suzette3 | June 12, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

good to know that visa and chevron employ a p.r. firm that has no compunctions about outright lying.

your pal,

Posted by: blakem | June 12, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I think it's great that Republicans are attacking Sotomayor. They are in a hole now and offending women and Hispanics will only dig them deeper. The people perceived to be their leaders are making the Republican brand worse. Look at Rush yesterday, trying to make the case that the racist Holocaust Museum shooter is a liberal. Any sane person knows how bizarre this is, but the Republican leaders in Congress can't make a break with Rush or Newt.

Posted by: trl618 | June 12, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I hope they spend all their money going after this nominee and they will fall flat on their face, embarrass and do irreparable harm to Republicans. We will have to put up with the toxic spill in our living rooms and family rooms for awhile but it will also give us further evidence that Republicans are killing themselves off day by day, issue by issue. Swift boat strategy has been totally rejected since 2004. All it does is continue to define the Conservatives as liars and extremists, unfit to govern. Sotomayor will be confirmed, as she should be. There is no concrete evidence to suggest otherwise, just distortion and slander and ugly labels. And this is why we much have this confirmation hearing sooner rather than later. No one needs to volunteer for an extended period of time to be slandered and reviled for political gain.

Posted by: nana4 | June 12, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

The republican party is so tone deaf it's almost embarrassing.
They act like it's 1988 and the power structure is geared to the white conservative male who loves the divisive and partisan attacks and culture wars.
They don't seem to accept it's now 2009. Minorities are on the rise in the country. People are sick and tired of the harsh rhetoric, the culture wars and the immaturity and selfishness that now defines conservative.
CRC sounds just like the gop of today and that it's specialty is the harsh attacks, lies and nastiness that the voters are now tuning out.

Posted by: vwcat | June 12, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

when CRC employees reflect on their past success, I wonder if it ever crosses their minds that they could well be responsible for the Iraq war and all the other terrible consequences of Kerry's defeat. And, if they do, does it bother them? They must being paid more than I can imagine.

Posted by: peets101 | June 12, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

“'When you’re working for Visa and Chevron, a lot of what we do for them has nothing to do with politics' he said."

Yes; if you're not honest about it, it seems exactly that way. On the other hand, you might be aware of the very political nature of what Visa and Chevron are up to

Posted by: mobedda | June 12, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Is there any member in 'swiftboad Veterans" other than these OLD WHITE STUPID MEN?

Posted by: justthomas | June 12, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: justthomas | June 12, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Peets101 needs a history lesson. The Iraq war started well BEFORE the 2004 election, in which Kerry was defeated. Therefore it is impossible - factually, if you care about facts - that it was a result of Kerry's defeat.

Posted by: lizzy4 | June 12, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

What ever happened to our libel laws? The Swift Boat Veterans were proven liars.

CRC represents the worst in American business policies. No soul and no accountability.

I don't think the GOP understands that we are rejecting the whole stinking culture.

Posted by: JacklynD | June 12, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh right, like the left-wing groups don't have their own professional PR people helping them lay out their position, issue media releases and create TV ads. All you insulters on this site are a bunch of hypocrites. What about NOW, NARAL, Hispanic groups, ACLU and all the leftie lobbies - like they don't use public relations professionals. Get real and stop your own lying in these posts. You people crack me up. You want MSNBC but the other side can't have FOX, blah blah blah . . . more liberal BS.

Posted by: moderate5 | June 13, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

"Jacklyn D" thinks the conservative culture is dead? Er, has she seen the recent polls and, more notably, the recent EU elections? Every Euro state is moving solidly (and quickly) back to the right, after experimenting witht the failed left-wing socialist policies that Obama is now pushing after scamming his way into the presidency with good looks, poise, charm, and by spending 8 million dollars to hide a 10 dollar birth certificate and all of his applications and school records.

Posted by: moderate5 | June 13, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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