Many organizations across the spectrum routinely weigh in on nominations of key administration officials. This type of advocacy engagement is currently front and center due to the president’s intention to nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
During the Brett Kavanaugh nomination in 2018, millions were spent by both sides for targeted advertising, grassroots and other advocacy efforts. Now, we fully expect those amounts will be exceeded on the current vacancy.
There are thousands of political appointments and confirmations across the federal landscape. If your organization operates in the healthcare sphere, you may have a vested interest in who is nominated and confirmed for the secretary of Health and Human Services or his/her deputies.
If you focus on financial services, you may be interested in the appointments to the Federal Reserve Board, and so on. Many of the lower level nominations and appointments won’t make it onto C-Span, but they’re all potentially impactful.
Supreme Court nominations often involve engagement by a multitude of advocacy organizations ranging from groups interested in wedge issues to even state groups raising more local issues. In this environment, Supreme Court nominations are costly for advocacy groups to have a significant impact.
Still, here are a few strategies that your organization can employ to have an impact on the outcome of pending nominations, whether the vacancy is for the Supreme Court or deputy assistant secretary of an agency:
1. Connect the candidate to your specific cause in your public messaging.
2. Contact the committee of jurisdiction to offer public comment.
3. Run advertisements, mailers, and distribute collateral with targeted messages.
4. Highlight the nominee’s record on your issues.
5. Go on the record for or against.
6. Issue a press release and place an op-ed in a Beltway or local publication.
7. Join or build a coalition to weigh in.
8. Leverage milestones in the nomination process in your email program and on social media, including announcements, meetings with senators, the hearing, and subsequent committee and floor votes.
Ultimately, groups should brace themselves for public blowback if they decide to engage. This environment is hyper-partisan because of the upcoming presidential election. Given the slim majority held by Republicans in the Senate, candidates for all appointments are likely to face greater scrutiny with partisan collaboration a potential casualty.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.