Conservative groups fight over Indian American Vanita Gupta


Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta; Photo credit: Indian American Impact Project

Anti-Trump group launches $1 million ‘Confirm Gupta’ ad campaign to counter hard-right Republicans.

While Indian-American Neera Tandon’s nomination as President Joe Biden’s budget director is deadlocked in the Senate, two conservative groups are fighting over another Indian American, Vanita Gupta’s nomination as associate attorney general.

A group of prominent anti-Trump conservatives is launching a $1 million ad campaign in support of civil rights lawyer Gupta’s nomination as the third highest-ranking official in the Justice Department, the Washington post reported.

The effort is aimed at countering attacks from hard-right Republicans who have painted Gupta as a radical liberal ahead of a March 9 Senate confirmation hearing.

Judicial Crisis Network is reported to have spent $800,000 on an anti Gupta ad campaign accusing her of being soft on crime.

“When our cities burned Gupta could’ve stood for law and order, for victims. Instead, she advocated to let convicts out of jail,” the group’s ad said referring to the Black Lives Matter protests last year that sometimes turned violent.

Organizers behind the “Confirm Gupta” effort were cited by the Post as saying they intend to showcase bipartisan support for her nomination and highlight her record of working with Republicans and police organizations while leading the agency’s civil rights division during the Obama administration.

The ad campaign is being spearheaded by Defending Democracy Together, a collection of moderate Republicans launched in opposition to Donald Trump’s presidency whose founders include columnist Bill Kristol and author Mona Charen, it said.

“Gupta has a record of building bridges across partisan divides,” according to a 30-second spot to air on cable networks and the Sunday political talk shows, the Post said.

“So let’s stop playing politics. Confirm Vanita Gupta and let’s build an America we can all believe in,” it says.

“There are Republican groups that have kicked up opposition to most of Biden’s nominees, Vanita in particular,”  Republican strategist Sarah Longwell, co-founder of Defending Democracy Together and another group, Republican Voters Against Trump, was quoted as saying.

“The attacks against Vanita are particularly unfair and untrue based on what every Republican I talked to has said about her, trying to paint her as radical when she has the support of police groups.” Longwell said.

“It is knee-jerk and doesn’t comport with the reality of the people who know her among conservatives and Republicans. We wanted to help elevate those voices.”

During his Senate hearings Merrick Garland, who was confirmed as the attorney-general, also faced hostile questions about Gupta from Republican Senator Mike Lee.

Garland vouched for her saying, “I regard her as a person of great integrity and a person dedicated to the mission of the department, particularly equal justice under the law.”

Meanwhile, Republican attorneys general in five states on Monday urged Biden to withdraw Gupta’s nomination saying her controversial statements about policing would damage the department’s relationship with local law enforcement, the Washington Times reported.

Gupta has come under fire for saying last year that she wants to shift resources to other priorities rather than hire more police. Her opponents, including the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, say that’s evidence she supports defunding the police.

“Ms. Gupta has a history of making radical statements that do not support providing law enforcement with the resources needed to succeed,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter to Biden.

The letter was signed by Todd Rokita of Indiana, Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Mike Hunter of Oklahoma and Ken Paxton of Texas, the Times said.

If Gupta is confirmed, the attorneys general said, it will impact the Justice Department’s relationship with local law enforcement, ultimately putting public safety at risk.

“Respectfully, with Ms. Gupta’s recent public, adverse statements toward police, putting her in such a senior position would seriously damage that relationship,” they wrote of the link between state and federal law enforcement.


Meet Vanita Gupta, Biden’s pick for associate attorney general (January 8, 2021)

Biden introduces Indian American Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General nominee (January 7, 2021)

Biden names Indian American Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General (January 7, 2021)

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