Conservative Spotlight: Progress for America

As one of the major players fighting for fair treatment of President Bush’s judicial nominees, Progress for America
made headlines for its multimillion-dollar campaign for up-or-down
votes on appellate court judges Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown.
And when John Roberts was picked to fill the vacancy for the Supreme
Court in July, Progress for America was one of the first groups to
support him, running TV ads within two days of the announcement.

for America was formed in 2001 “as an issue advocacy organization to
support the President’s agenda,” according to Brian McCabe, president
of the group. At the time, Progress for America pushed several key
issues of the Bush agenda: trade-promotion authority, across-the-board
tax cuts, energy reform and education policy reform. After successfully
achieving many of these objectives throughout Bush’s first term,
Progress for America moved its sights toward his re-election and the
issues that defined the presidential election: national security and
the War on Terror. Throughout the 2004 campaign, the group raised $45
million, making it the largest conservative 527-advocacy group,
according to Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign-finance
monitoring organization.

Immediately after Bush was re-elected, Progress for America turned its focus to four new key issues:

Tort Reform:
Key achievements have already been realized in tort reform after both
the Senate and the House in February overwhelmingly passed the Class
Action Fairness Act, which sought to curb lawsuit abuse. McCabe
optimistically viewed this as “a first step in tort reform,” an area
where “we’ll see other victories” in other segments of tort
reform—specifically curbing asbestos lawsuits.

Tax Reform:
While the President has appointed a bipartisan commission to study
several long-term tax solutions, Progress for America will wait for the
commission’s recommendations. In the meantime, Progress for America is
pushing to make the tax-cut packages of Bush’s first term permanent.

Social Security Reform:
Despite getting off to a rocky start in the public forum, Social
Security reform remains an issue awaiting action in Congress, although
now apparently pushed aside by Hurricane Katrina. McCabe said he hopes
there will be opportunities to make sure personal retirement accounts
“become part of the package.” For now, Progress for America is focusing
on educating the public about the facts of Social Security and the
pitfalls it will face if the problems are left unchanged. McCabe
remains confident that once the public understands the facts, it will
come around to the idea of personal accounts as a part of the solution
to Social Security, and the issue will go down as one of the major
achievements of this administration.

Judicial Fairness:
As its highest-profile issue, Progress for America keyed in on judicial
fairness earlier this year, when it focused on two female nominees—Owen
and Brown—whose confirmations were being blocked by Senate Democrats.
Instead of arguing the legitimacy of arcane senatorial procedures,
Progress for America took the opportunity to “personalize” the issue by
examining the two well-qualified judges individually and pointing out
they deserve fair consideration from the Senate. Resulting in part from
pressure from groups such as Progress for America, both Owen and Brown
won confirmation when a group of moderate Republican and Democratic
senators struck a deal, agreeing to vote for their confirmation.

praised the conclusion reached in the Senate compromise deal “that
judicial philosophy does not count as an ‘extraordinary circumstance,’”
but he expressed doubt that Democrats will actually live up to that
agreement, given their threats refusing to rule out the use of a
filibuster of any Supreme Court nominee.

When the announcement
of Roberts’ nomination was made, Progress for America immediately
endorsed him as “a terrific Supreme Court nominee,” and promised to
“defend Judge Roberts from the left’s predictable and premeditated
character-assassination attempts,” McCabe said. In anticipation of such
an attack, Progress for America produced “Tar & Feather, Inc.: A
10-Step Plan for Judicial Character Assassination,” predicting the
strategy of attack from liberal advocacy groups.

In the Supreme
Court battle as well as future political confrontations, Progress for
America will continue promote the core issues of Bush’s agenda, McCabe
said. And it will continue to serve as a leading voice of practical
conservative policy.