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Groups launch ad campaigns in wake of Kavanaugh allegations

A historic number of vacancies in America's federal courts is giving Republicans the chance to put a soaring number of young, conservative judges on the bench. (Video: Jenny Starrs, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Groups for and against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh announced plans Monday to spend more than $2 million on television and digital advertising in the wake of allegations by a California professor that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were teenagers.

The liberal group Demand Justice said it would spend $700,000 on ads focused on the accusation from Christine Blasey Ford, who said Monday she would be willing to testify before Congress.

The announcement follows a similar one by the powerful pro-Kavanaugh group Judicial Crisis Network, which said it will spend $1.5 million to run advertisements defending Kavanaugh’s character.

In detailed allegations published Sunday in The Washington Post, Ford said that during a party in the 1980s that Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh, who is married with two children, has forcefully denied the allegation and said he is willing to testify to that effect.

The ad campaigns are a part of a multimillion-dollar advertising battle over the Supreme Court nomination, financed by donors whose identities are not disclosed to the public and focused on influencing a handful of senators who will cast the decisive votes.

Demand Justice said its new campaign will focus on the home states of two moderate Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — and on Colorado and Nevada, Democratic-leaning swing states whose Republican senators are facing tough reelection battles in 2018 and 2020.

The group was finalizing its new ad on Monday and declined to provide further details about its content and messaging strategy. But the group’s embrace of Ford’s story was clear from its Twitter page Monday, which bore the slogan, “I believe Christine Blasey.”

The ads are a part of the $5 million campaign that Demand Justice said it plans to raise to try to block the confirmation of Kavanaugh, a federal judge and Trump’s pick to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired this summer.

The Judicial Crisis Network has spent at least $4.3 million on ads supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with at least $2.1 million of that devoted to four key states this fall — Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Alabama, according to the group.

“We are not going to allow a last-minute smear campaign destroy a good and decent man who has an unblemished personal record,” a representative for the Judicial Crisis Network said in a statement Monday.

Judicial Crisis Network has said it is prepared to spend as much as $10 million or more to support Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the conservative Koch network, which earlier this year announced a seven-figure campaign to support Kavanaugh, said in a statement Monday it stands by Kavanaugh’s nomination and record and “will continue to follow the Judiciary Committee’s lead as its evaluates the allegations.”

America First Policies, the main outside group supporting Trump’s agenda, said it has spent about $1.2 million so far on ads supporting Kavanaugh and has no plans to change its ad campaign.