INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The Koch network is expanding its portfolio into the judicial branch.
Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential network led by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, announced Sunday that it has hired Sarah Field, former director of state court strategy for the Federalist Society, as vice president of judicial strategy. The Federalist Society has vetted and recommended candidates for the Supreme Court and federal judgeships to the White House.
For its new initiative, the network will mobilize its network of grass-roots activists in 36 states for the next Supreme Court vacancy and to push for more conservative judges to be confirmed to vacancies in lower courts across the country.
In 2017, the network’s activists worked phones and knocked on doors, urging voters to push their senators to confirm Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The new effort will build on the 2017 work, led by Concerned Veterans for America, which network officials viewed as an indication of how much energy activists will bring to the new judicial campaign.
“We saw an unprecedented level of engagement in the month of January and February from our grass roots,” said Mark Lucas, AFP’s senior vice president of grass roots, referring to the period of Gorsuch’s nomination and his pending confirmation.
Mega-donors to the network, who are gathered at a desert resort here for a three-day meeting, clearly are energized by the network’s focus on judicial nominations. During a dinner discussion Saturday between AFP President Tim Phillips and three members of Congress, President Trump’s rapid pace of judicial nominations in 2017 drew thunderous applause.
Trump inherited an extraordinary number of judicial vacancies, and in his first year appointed more federal circuit court judges than any other modern president. He filled 12 seats for circuit courts and six for district courts last year.
“We’re literally creating a generational change in the direction of the courts,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said during the Saturday evening discussion.
Concerned Veterans for America’s 2017 grass-roots push for Gorsuch’s confirmation included more than a half-million calls, three rounds of direct mail, digital advertisements and targeted online ads, AFP officials said.
“Gorsuch was the first judicial effort, and we saw an amazing opportunity for us to engage at the appellate level, and potentially in the states,” Lucas said.
Through Field, the network will be able to build out its judicial strategy, and lay the groundwork for the next Supreme Court vacancy, whenever that may happen.
The goal, officials said, is to educate the public on the importance of judicial confirmations and on potential nominees who are aligned with the network’s constitutional views.
“Securing Justice Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court bench was a major victory for freedom, but the fight to realign our courts around the rule of law is far from over,” Field said in a statement.
“This year we will mobilize our activists as needed, particularly when members of the Senate choose to needlessly obstruct the confirmation process. When the next vacancy opens on the Supreme Court, we will be ready,” her statement read.