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.’’
Web Politics Editor
June 11, 2009; 3:16 PM ET
Categories: Supreme Court
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