Ed Gillespie, who will help promote President Bush's future nominee to a vacancy on the Supreme Court, is a top-tier lobbyist who represents a host of clients with direct and indirect interests in the outcome of Supreme Court decisions.
Bush is expected to formally announce soon his designation of Gillespie, 43, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, to work with former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) to shepherd Bush's choice to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor through the Senate. Thompson, a television actor, will deal privately with senators and provide advice to the nominee on preparing for Judiciary Committee hearings, while Gillespie will help develop Bush's nomination message.
During a brief telephone interview yesterday, Gillespie declined to discuss his selection or the conflict-of-interest rules that will govern his activities. But other sources in the lobbying community said he is likely to give up active representation of clients during the two to four months he will serve as a manager for the candidate chosen to serve on the highest court of the land.
Quinn Gillespie & Associates represents corporations and trade associations with strong bottom-line interests in court rulings involving corporate liability, tort reform, antitrust and securities issues. The firm's clients, most of whom pay annual fees of $200,000 to $360,000, include the American Petroleum Institute, SBC Communications Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Microsoft Corp., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, Safeway Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
The firm's lobbying billings were $12.01 million last year, a figure that does not include fees for public relations work and strategic advice.
The designation of a full-time campaign manager for the as-yet-to-be-named nominee reflects a White House decision to aggressively challenge a major liberal campaign already underway to defeat any of the nominees described as having a place on Bush's "short list" of candidates. The Gillespie pick marks the first full-scale bid to mobilize the political muscle of the Republican Party and its allied networks of constituent groups in the business and religious communities.
Gillespie's assignment will be to use the tools and techniques of a presidential campaign to put together a conservative political machine equipped to take on the alliance of groups on the political left that defeated the 1987 nomination of Robert H. Bork and nearly defeated Clarence Thomas, who won Senate confirmation by a close 52 to 48 vote in 1991.
Gillespie may work for the White House as a "special government employee," allowing him to retain his ties to his multimillion-dollar lobbying firm and to be exempt from many of the rules covering full-time government workers. The special designation can be used only for people who work for the government for fewer than 130 days in a year.
The drive to win approval of Bush's appointment to the Supreme Court already has a television budget of at least $20 million, a research staff trained to counter attacks and discredit opponents, and many business and religious leaders ready and waiting to pressure wavering senators.
Quinn Gillespie & Associates describes itself as "a bipartisan public affairs firm that provides strategic counsel, government relations and communications services to corporations, trade associations and issue-based coalitions."
The firm's Web site describes Gillespie as "one of the most prominent and successful strategists in the Republican Party" and a man whose "political work on behalf of President George W. Bush is well known," including his management of the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and his work as a spokesman during the Florida recount.
Gillespie's role in advocating Bush's future nominee is not without precedent. Kenneth M. Duberstein, a prominent lobbyist and former Reagan administration official, worked on behalf of the nominations of Justices Thomas and David H. Souter. Former GOP lobbyist Tom Korologos similarly served as an unofficial adviser to many Republicans seeking Senate confirmation, including Bork. Duberstein, Korologos and Thompson are specialists in the internal politics of the Senate and in the special peculiarities of the confirmation process. No one has ever performed the kind of "outside" and public campaign on behalf of a nominee that the White House envisages for Gillespie.