DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A liberal activist group is calling on Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley to condemn a new ad attacking a U.S. Court of Appeals judge and potential Supreme Court nominee Jane Kelly.
Americans United for Change also wants Grassley to reconsider his decision not to hold hearings for anyone President Obama might nominate to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
"Jane Kelly, a federal Appellate Judge and fellow Iowan who Grassley not only voted to confirm but sang her praises on the Senate floor, is on the receiving end of ugly attacks designed to corrupt and influence the Supreme Court nomination process," said Brad Woodhouse, the group's president. "It is an adult moment for Grassley to set the tone going forward that these kinds of tactics by his friends on the right are not welcome in this process -- a process that should be free of these type of political smears."
The conservative Judicial Crisis Network launched an ad campaign Friday targeting Kelly for her work defending a client on child pornography charges who later was convicted of murder.
Kelly joined the Cedar Rapids federal public defender's office in 1994, where she stayed until her appointment to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2005, she was chosen to represent Casey Frederiksen on child pornography charges. Kelly helped negotiate a deal that allowed Frederiksen to plead to three of the 14 counts he originally faced. He was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. In 2015, Frederiksen was convicted of killing Evelyn Miller, his fiancee's 5-year-old daughter. Kelly did not represent him in that case.
"These Koch brothers-funded attacks... (argue) that judicial nominees who were once public defenders should be disqualified for anything their clients were accused of," Woodhouse said. "Grassley's silence on this matter that directly involves him would be tantamount to an endorsement of his friends trampling the Constitution and trifling with an outstanding Judge's reputation."
A spokesman for Grassley sent KCRG-TV9 this statement in response:
"Senator Grassley hasn't seen the ad, but no one is disputing the facts-only that they're being highlighted. It demonstrates why the Senate shouldn't consider a nominee during a heated presidential election and the American people have the opportunity to voice their opinion. There's no reason to drop a nominee into this political cauldron-just as Senator Biden once said."
During the 1992 election, then-Senator Joe Biden urged President George H.W. Bush not to nominate a Supreme Court Justice, should a seat on the court become vacant. Biden, then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Bush "not name a nominee until after the November election is completed," noting that if he did, "the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over."
But later in his speech, Biden actually promised to consider a moderate Supreme Court nominee.
"I believe that so long as the public continues to split its confidence between the branches, compromise is the responsible course both for the White House and for the Senate," he said. "Therefore I stand by my position, Mr. President, if the President [George H.W. Bush] consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter."
As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same role Grassley holds now, Biden repeatedly confirmed Bush's judicial nominees during the 1992 election season.