Earlier this month, the right-wing Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) launched a baseless smear campaign claiming President Joe Biden’s eventual Supreme Court nominee would be supposedly “payback” in a dark money conspiracy. Now that the nominee has been announced as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, this false narrative is being directed by JCN at the judge, and starting to spread among Republican politicians and right-wing media figures.
The Judicial Crisis Network is a widely discredited right-wing judicial advocacy organization founded in 2005 that supports the confirmation of conservative judges and has repeatedly lobbed dishonest attacks against Democratic judicial and executive nominees in an attempt to derail their confirmations. The dark money group has also served as a messaging enforcer in service of Republican nominees, most notably former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court justices. As recent reporting has confirmed, it is an integral part of the well-funded conservative activist ecosystem that has dedicated itself to packing the federal judiciary with extremist right-wing reactionaries.
On February 3, JCN launched a $2.5 million ad buy claiming that whomever Biden nominates to fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s Supreme Court seat would be a “huge payback” to a philanthropic consulting firm for a “record amount of dark money spent” by progressive groups to help elect Biden and Senate Democrats. JCN’s original ad baselessly claimed that Biden and the Senate were bankrolled by these social impact advisers, which was revised after the firm sent defamation letters to stations airing the ad pointing out that it “has not donated to any political campaigns — and, as a corporation, is legally barred from doing so.” Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino has nevertheless relentlessly pushed the wild claim on Twitter, and turned it against Judge Jackson on the morning of February 25.
Minutes after Biden formally announced Jackson’s historic nomination on Twitter, some Republican politicians and conservative media figures began repeating JCN's smear in an shameless effort to smear her as a supposedly corrupt choice:
Judicial Crisis Network’s line of attack about “dark money” is not new. Jackson faced similar questions during her confirmation process to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2021. She made it clear during the hearing that she does not “rule with partisan advantage in mind,” nor does she “craft [her] decisions in order to try to gain influence.” Jackson was confirmed with bipartisan support, including from Republican senators still serving today.
Judicial Crisis Network’s and right-wing media’s dishonest attempts to claim that Jackson was nominated merely because of “dark money” interests are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to derail the first Black woman nominated to the Court and ignore the fact that Jackson is extremely qualified for the job. During her career, Jackson clerked for three federal jurists including Breyer, served as a public defender, and sat on both the district court and court of appeals in D.C.